5 Sept – Prisoners at the state’s most secure jail have gone out on strike to demand more pay.
Some inmates at maximum security Barwon Prison want a better deal and have been refusing to work since last week.
Management at the jail, near Geelong, on Monday took action of their own, confining those refusing to work under new arrangements to their cells.
Journalists have been told the situation had been, at times, tense and that those prisoners locked down were being allowed out of their cells on a rotation basis.
Specialist officers from the security and emergency services group were on standby in case of trouble at the jail, which houses killers, armed robbers, terrorists and gangland figures.
Prisoners in Victoria are paid between $6.50 and $8.95 per day.
It is unclear who are the ringleaders of the Barwon industrial action.
Among the high-profile inmates are drug bosses Tony Mokbel, Frank Madafferi and Pasquale Barbaro and Matthew Johnson, the man who murdered underworld kingpin Carl Williams.
Opposition Corrections spokesman Edward O’Donohue said the strike raises questions about who was in control of our corrections system.
The Opposition’s corrections spokesman Edward O’Donohue said it was “unacceptable” that maximum security prisoners would “feel emboldened” to strike.
“The community expects prisoners to be focused on rehabilitation and paying their debt to the community, not to be taking strike action over pay rates in prison.”
“Under Daniel Andrews we’ve seen the worst prison riots in Victoria’s history, prisoners growing drugs in the prison gardens, increased escapes, increased deaths in custody and now prisoners going on strike,”.
“You have to question who is in control and who is running the Victorian corrections system.” said O’Donohue.
Inmates are paid at three levels, determined by the level of responsibility required, complexity of tasks, the hours and skills.
Their tasks can include gardening, maintenance, woodworking and textile jobs. The Marngoneet jail, near Barwon, was last year placed on lockdown as prisoners protested for better pay.
Barwon Prison, which is at Lara, is regarded as the most secure jail in the state’s correctional system.
It has an operational capacity of 448 inmates.
Authorities are confident the issues at Barwon will not degenerate into the mayhem which gripped the Melbourne Remand Centre in July last year, leading to widespread destruction and assaults.
A spokesman for Corrections Victoria said Barwon had new employment arrangements which had already been instigated at other Victorian prisons.
All sentenced prisoners in Victoria, unless too old or physically unable, are expected to be employed.
“Work provides skills to help prisoners find jobs when they are released from custody,” the spokesman said.