Safety concerns lead to negotiations between Prison Officers' Vocational Branch and Corrective Services NSW

A riot at Goulburn Correctional Centre last year has sparked safety concerns for prison officers. Photo: Louise Thrower

A riot at Goulburn Correctional Centre last year has sparked safety concerns for prison officers. Photo: Louise Thrower

Prison officers at Goulburn Correctional Centre will not go on strike despite safety concerns and "increased assaults" on their numbers.

A 40 per cent increase in assault at NSW jails has sparked tension between prison staff and upper management, a union says.

Safety and staffing level concerns led Corrective Services prison officers to consider going on strike at Goulburn Correctional Centre and other jails across NSW. But after negotiations with the state government on February 9 prison officers decided not to walk off the job.

The negotiations occurred after the Public Service Association's Prison Officers' Vocational Branch raised the safety matters with Corrective Services NSW.

Union chair Nicole Jess said the branch wrote to the department after multiple violent incidents. She said this included an increase in riots - namely, a riot at Goulburn Correctional Centre on April 14, 2020 - and increased prison staff assault across NSW.

"We are sick and tired of being the punching bag," she said.

"Staff safety is most definitely the biggest concern."

Ms Jess urged Corrective Services management to "not go so softly on inmates so the jail looks good".

"The decisions by managers are putting prison staff at risk," she said.

"Management is not following policy and releasing violent inmates from segregation too quickly.

"We are feeling our policies and procedures are not being supported."

The union chair said Goulburn Correctional Centre carried some of "the worst and most aggressive offenders" in the state.

"We want to ensure that managers, the government and the judicial system support Corrective Services staff," she said.

"We want to address issues and make sure they aren't just giving us lip service."

A Corrective Services NSW spokeswoman said staff safety and security was the highest priority for the government department.

"We consider any assault on staff as unacceptable and support prosecutions of inmates who engage in this behaviour," she said.

"We acknowledge our staff work in a challenging and sometimes violent environment."

The spokeswoman said Commissioner Peter Severin met with union representatives on February 9 as part of "an ongoing collaboration to continuously improve our workplace".

"We've recently initiated a range of reviews to improve safety for our staff and this includes management of inmates who have engaged in dangerous or violent behaviour in custody."

In reference staffing concerns held by the prison officer's union, the spokeswoman said there were almost 240 permanent ongoing custodial staff across NSW.

"They are well trained, of varied ages, and do an excellent job in maintaining the good order of the prison.

"There is also a pool of experienced casual officers who can be called upon as required to fill in any staff shortages."

This story Prison officers 'sick and tired of being the punching bag' first appeared on Goulburn Post.