Prison officers across the state have walked out in support of colleagues at Goulburn’s Supermax who have faced an unprecedented barrage of violence from the state’s most dangerous inmates with four assaults this week.
Officers are also furious with a controversial decision in the District Court two weeks ago which quashed the 20-month sentence imposed on killer, Brothers 4 Life gang founder and ISIS supporter Bassam Hamzy for bashing a Supermax prison officer after the judge said his jail conditions were enough punishment.
NSW Corrective Services said today they were taking legal advice to see if they could appeal the ruling by Acting Judge Geoffrey Graham.
The strike began this morning at Goulburn ahead of a meeting scheduled with management on Monday and quickly spread throughout the state including court security officers.
“It’s statewide now with every corrections officers including prisoners’ transport and courts having walked off the job,” a source said.
All prisoners at Goulburn, including Supermax which houses serial killer Ivan Milat and most of the state’s convicted terrorists, are locked in their cells, Corrective Services said today.
The unrest has been sheeted home to the District Court ruling which Public Service Association General Secretary Stewart Little said had set a dangerous precedent.
“We need to be very clear: if you assault a prison officer who’s in the course of their duties then you get extra jail time. These laws were introduced for good reason, to keep people, who already have a highly dangerous job, safe,” he said at the time.
Then on Sunday one Supermax prison officer was rushed to hospital with head wounds and another the other was treated at the jail for an injury to his shoulder after alleged attacks by two of the state’s most notorious convicted radicals, close friends Tamim Khaja and Milad Al-Ahmadzai.
On Thursday an officer in what is called Old Goulburn — which houses the general jail population — had urine and faeces thrown at him in an assault.
This morning, a fourth prison guard was hospitalised following an attack in Supermax where he was king-hit.
“’Custodial staff at the Goulburn Correctional Complex walked off the job this morning. It is understood they are unhappy with how Corrective Services manages incidents of staff assault,” a Corrective Services statement said today.
“The Public Service Association raised the issue of staff safety in Goulburn’s High Risk Management Correctional Centre with CSNSW senior management earlier this week and a meeting has been scheduled for Monday.”
Corrective Services said they were “concerned about a recent judgment in the District Court of Appeal and are actively seeking avenues of appeal.”
All jail visits have been cancelled.
“Staff safety and security is the highest priority for Corrective Services NSW,” the statement said.
“CSNSW considers any assault on staff as unacceptable and supports prosecutions of inmates who engage in this behaviour.”
They said CSNSW has gone to the Industrial Relations Commission and “will be working with staff and their representatives to put in place measures to ensure the ongoing safety of staff.”
“All inmates are secure in their cells and the prison is being run by a skeleton staff. Public security has not been compromised,” the statement said.
Comment is being sought from Attorney-General Mark Speakman and prisons minister David Elliott.
Tamim Khaja, 21, and Milad Al-Ahmadzai, 28, are believed to still be in segregation after last weekend’s alleged attacks.
Al-Ahmadzai, notorious for refusing to stand for judges in court, is serving 18 years for attempted murder outside a gay club in Rydalmere in 2013 as well offences including threatening to slit the throat of an ASIO officer and ram-raids on ATMs to fund terrorism.
When newspaper clippings about Islamic State activities were found four years ago in a bag belonging to Al-Ahmadzai, he reportedlyshouted “Takbir”, raising his arm skyward with his index finger pointed upwards, a known salute usually associated with ISIS.
Khaja, 21, was sentenced to a maximum of 19 years with a non-parole period of 14 years three months in March last year after pleading guilty to planning and preparing a “lone wolf” terror massacre attack either at Sydney’s US Consulate, the Timor Army Barracks in Dundas or a Parramatta court complex.
He had been inspired by the Charlie Hebdo terror attack in Paris and in one message intercepted by police he said: “After Paris I wanted [to] pick up a knife and start cutting heads off but I waited, but there is no more time for waiting, it will send a big message like Paris, Inshallah,”
The attacks on the two prison guards at the weekend followed a “verbal altercation” and police are investigating.
The prison officer who needed seven stitches to his head has since been discharged from hospital.
Hamzy, 39, originally jailed for the 1998 shooting murder of a teenager outside a Sydney nightclub, had appealed his 20-month sentence extension for bashing the prison officer. He ran a drug ring from Supermax.
Acting Judge Graham said Hamzy had been wrongly punished over the bashing twice, first by losing jail privileges and then through the extension to his already lengthy sentence.
There are reports that prison officers at Lithgow, Mulawa, Mary Wade, South Coast, Cessnock, Hunter, Shortland, Macquarie, Wellington, CIG, the Metropolitan Remand centre at Long Bay and Silverwater Women’s jails have walked in support of Goulburn.