Friday, 29th July, 2016
By Andrew Robertson
An armed prison guard will be stationed in the Broken Hill jail tower following an inmate’s bold escape earlier this year, as a union calls for a brand new prison to be built.
The recommissioning of the tower, which follows a review of the facility’s security in the wake of the February escape by Nicholas Bugmy, has been welcomed by the Public Services Union, which represents prison guards.
Steve McMahon, chairman of the Prison Officers’ branch of the PSU, said yesterday his members had been calling for security to be beefed up at the prison for at least 10 years.
After Bugmy’s daring escape on February 14, extra razor wire was installed along the wall the 27-year-old jumped over, and extra patrols are now conducted.
In the most serious response yet, Correctional Services NSW has now confirmed it will bring back into service the jail’s tower.
“Following the escape incident in February, Correctional Services NSW reviewed security measures at the Broken Hill Correctional Centre,” a spokeswoman for Corrective Services said.
“A recommendation of that review was to recommission a former armed tower, which will be manned by a correctional officer from 8am to 4pm daily.”
Mr McMahon said Corrective Services had for years resisted guards’ requests for more razor wire and for the tower to be manned, claiming the measures were unwarranted.
“They are things we’ve sought prior from the department in response to when we identified that there was some weaknesses there, and unfortunately it took the event of an escape to recognise that yes we needed to do something,” he said.
“We always ask for towers to be manned if there’s a tower in a prison; we say it’s a good idea to be an officer in there.”
He said bringing the tower back into service should send a message that Corrections takes the public’s safety very seriously.
“Manning that tower is a very important part community protection,” said Mr McMahon, adding that the hours the tower will be manned directly relate to the times the prisoners are outside their cells.
“It gives us that constant oversight of the activities of the inmates at the time that they are outside their cells and in the open areas of the prison.
“It certainly provides a level of oversight for our safety as well, when we’re required to be in the yard with inmates free and wandering around.”
Further upgrading to the electronic security of the prison was also needed, according to Mr McMahon, but that was likely to be a longer term process.
But given the age of the jail, he said the state government would be “derelict in its duty” not be looking to build a new facility at Broken Hill sometime soon.
“While we love the current jail at Broken Hill - it’s a lovely piece of early construction work - a new prison is certainly something that NSW should be looking at, even in this current scope of works.”
The government set aside $3.8 billion in the May budget to create an extra 7000 prison beds over four years in response to an explosion in the prison population.
Corrective Services told the BDT that there were no plans to increase capacity at the jail.