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​Corrective Services NSW celebrates 20 years on remand at Silverwater

Issued: Monday 3 July 2017

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One of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest correctional centres will tomorrow mark 20 years of operation in Western Sydney.

The Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre at Silverwater opened its tightly-locked doors on 4 July 1997 and since then has become the country’s largest prison, with more than 300 staff processing around 18,000 offenders each year.

Commissioner Peter Severin said the 20-year anniversary was an important milestone in the history of Corrective Services NSW and a good opportunity to recognise the important contribution staff make to the security and good order of the centre.

“When the MRRC opened in 1997 it set the new standard for best practice in the administration of corrections in NSW, if not Australia,” Mr Severin said.

“The facility was designed to assist and support staff in carrying out their duties, while also ensuring they were preserving security and preserving life.

“The MRRC also heralded in a new era of technology in the NSW prison system as it was equipped with state of the art security systems.

“These systems combined with our hard-working and dedicated staff continue to ensure that the MRRC remains one of the best prisons in the country.”

MRRC Governor Tom Woods manages the centre’s 1,179 inmates and 322 staff – 50 of whom were there on 4 July 1997 - and said it was exciting to reach the two-decade milestone.

“It’s an incredibly busy centre, and the staff are so important in maintaining the necessary drive to keep on top of things like hygiene, painting, refurbishment and effective use of resources,” Mr Woods said.

Senior Correctional Officer Ian McLuckie works at MRRC and was one of the officers on duty when the first inmates arrived 20 years ago.

“They were all low-risk young offenders and we mustered them in the sterile zone, just inside the gate,” Mr McLuckie said.

“They were sent to work with contractors in the centre and some actually gained employment with these contractors after their release.

“In the early days we had to search the centre for contraband at intervals during the day and I remember finding an electrician that had accidentally locked himself in a segregation cell in Darcy Unit. He’d been there for hours when I found him.”

Fast facts: key events in MRRC history

1997

  • MRRC opens on 4 July by then Minister for Corrective Services Bob Debus MP and CSNSW Commissioner Leo Keliher. General Manager John Dunthorne is at the helm, while Al Dudley is the project manager during the construction phase.

1999

  • The first audio visual link (AVL) courts open, allowing inmates to have their matters heard from the centre without having to travel to court. Changes are made to intake security and more holding cells are created for the 80–100 inmates appearing at court via AVL every day.
  • The Drug Court, designed for offenders with serious drug addiction issues, is established using 17 beds in the health clinic.
  • Armed robber John Killick escapes by helicopter aided by girlfriend Lucy Dudco. Love is sometimes blind however - Killick is recaptured after a domestic argument with Dudco six weeks later.
  • Ron Woodham Library opens in J Block (now the new AVL area) on 23 February.

2006

  • The Mental Health Screening Unit opens on 29 March, housing around 43 inmates.
  • Centralised Rosters moves from Irwin House to the Scheduling Unit (Newington House).

2011

  • Cornerstone BioMetrics is introduced allowing CSNSW to make fingerprint and retina scans of all people entering the prison. During the launch, with media in attendance, the system fails to recognise NSW Premier Bob Carr’s retinas. This is apparently due to the press scrum’s camera flashes interfering with the scan.
  • Electronic forms for buy-ups are introduced.
  • Asbestos is found in soil on the site, forcing the removal of Fordwick, Goldsmith and Hamden pods.
  • Fencing is erected between yards to give inmates more time outside.
  • The main gate is fully refurbished to give visitors a separate entrance to staff.
  • The first prison-based Police Station is installed near the legal area in Irwin House to assist with administering Section 25 notices, which direct an inmate to report to a Police station. This is more efficient than taking inmates to external stations.
  • New yards are built in the AVL area to hold inmates on protection.

2016

  • Visiting hours and structure are changed to accommodate protection-inmates and mainstream inmates at different times.
  • The laundry is destroyed by fire due to an electrical fault. Inmates’ washing is now sent to their comrades’ laundry at Long Bay.
  • Beds are increased from 900 to 1,179 to accommodate the growing inmate population.
  • The Security Emergency Response Team is renamed the Immediate Action Team.
  • Tom Woods is appointed Governor.