Prisoners escape from cells and attack staff at NSW Central Coast juvenile detention centre

Riot police outside the Frank Baxter Juvenile Justice Centre. Photo: Top Notch Video
Riot police outside the Frank Baxter Juvenile Justice Centre. Photo: Top Notch Video

A juvenile detention centre on the Central Coast remains the scene of an unfolding riot, with police negotiators working to bring inmates down off the roof of the facility after a large group escaped from their cells, attacking and overwhelming staff.

Emergency services were called to the Frank Baxter Juvenile Justice Centre about 8.40pm on Sunday night, with heavily armed police moving to establish a perimeter around the entire jail.

Dozens of inmates climbed onto the roof of the facility, where they have since spent the night in near-freezing temperatures, Nine News reports.

Police are currently in the process of negotiating to bring them down from the roof, one-by-one.

A corrective services source told the Herald that at least 20 detainees were involved and that staff at the centre had been attacked.

Detainees had obtained keys and gained access to a workshed that contained chainsaws and other tools.

The corrective services source said detainees had also attacked fellow inmates, including prisoners in the facility for sex offenders.

Police had to deploy gas in a bid to restore order. The source said staff were fearful for their safety and unable to intervene until police arrived.

Due to low lighting, police were unable to confirm exactly how many prisoners were out of their cells.

NSW Ambulance said that by 11pm they had 15 crews on standby, as well as a rescue helicopter.

Police will not confirm the number or nature of the injuries as the incident continues to unfold, but there are reports up to eight youths have been stabbed.

Gosford Hospital's emergency department was overrun with patients in the wake of the incident.

Those with more serious head injuries were being transferred to Royal North Shore, where neurosurgical services were available.

Opening in 1999, the facility in Kariong is the largest juvenile detention centre in the state, capable of housing up to 120 inmates between the ages of 16 and 21.

The jail has been plagued with recent incidents, and staff walked off the job a month ago following an assault that left a prison officer with concussion, a broken nose and a broken eye socket.

From 2017 to 2018, physical assaults on staff - which range from spitting to violent attacks - jumped from eight to 25, while self-harm incidents doubled, rising from 52 to 100.

Incidents requiring medical help or hospitalisation rose from 30 to 49.

smh.com.au with Australian Associated Press