Melbourne: Three more months for prisoners who started $320,000 Metropolitan Remand Centre riot

February 17: Five prisoners who ran wild and caused more than $320,000 damage will serve just three more months behind bars.

The five rioters caused massive damage at the Metropolitan Remand Centre on August 12, 2012. The court heard the five men scaled a wire fence in their unit’s yard before pushing over another fence and entering a prison perimeter referred to as “The Sterile Zone”. Once inside, the men hurled tennis ball-sized rocks at prison guards and smashed security cameras and windows as they rampaged around the prison between a five-metre wall and the wire fence. Two vehicles, security sensors and CCTV wiring were also damaged.

Three prison officers were injured by rocks during the riot, with one officer struck in the eye by shattered glass.

The men — some of whom were armed with sharpened sticks and rods — were subdued hours later by specialised security officers dressed in full riot gear and accompanied by dogs. The court heard the men planned the riot because “the screws were being smart”.

Each of the men pleaded guilty to the charges.

Each of the men has been sentenced to six months on charges of rioting, criminal damage and recklessly causing serious injury, with one month ordered to be served on top of the last charge. All but four of the total seven months are to be served concurrently on sentences they are already serving.

The court heard the young offenders had all struggled through childhood and had extensive criminal histories.

Judge Frank Gucciardo, who last time the men were in court was critical of the prison system, was again scathing of the way the men had been treated in jail.

The court heard four of the five men had been locked in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day since the incident.

“It’s cruel and inhumane,” he said. “Our justice system must be better than that.”

Judge Gucciardo questioned what benefit could be had from locking teenagers in cells by themselves for months at a time and argued the community could be served better.

He took into account the delays in sentencing the men, their early guilty pleas and youth in sentencing the men.

Judge Gucciardo said he recognised his sentence may be judged lenient, but he did so because of the difficult conditions the men faced in jail.

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