Underwear shortage, rabbit plague at Hobart’s Risdon Prison, report finds
One prisoner said “it’s humiliating when your family visits and you have holes in your clothes”. (ABC News: David Hudspeth)
Mentally ill prisoners ‘forced into Risdon Prison due to no room at specialist facility’
An underwear shortage and problems with rabbits, ducks and cockatoos are just some of the issues facing authorities at Tasmania’s Risdon Prison, a new report has found.
- The inspector reported rabbits “in plague proportions” at Risdon, as well as insufficient supplies of underwear and tracksuits
- Cockatoos and ducks were also found to be feeding on prisoners’ bread supplies
- Department of Justice said many of the report’s recommendations had been accepted in principle
The problems at the facility near Hobart, home to high-profile prisoners such as Martin Bryant, Susan Neill-Fraser and the late Mark “Chopper” Read, were outlined by Tasmania’s Custodial Inspector Richard Connock in a report tabled in State Parliament on Thursday.
Mr Connock reported that rabbits, which “appear to be in plague proportions” at the site, are “present in numbers sufficient to be noticed at all times of the day and not only at dawn and dusk, which are their peak feeding times”.
The proliferation of rabbit burrows around the prison’s perimeter fencing had posed a workplace safety issue, with “anecdotally, at least one correctional officer injured walking over a rabbit warren that collapsed”, the report found.
Authorities at the prison “need to take steps to reduce and control the rabbit population … which [is] contributing to widespread soil erosion and the destruction of plants and vegetables on the Risdon site”, Mr Connock said.
The report said inmates were being released into society in prison-issued tracksuits. (David Fraser)
The report also detailed problems with ducks and cockatoos flying into Risdon’s medium security precinct because of prisoners feeding the birds with the oversupply of bread.
“On the morning of one inspection there were at least 70 cockatoos sighted by a correctional staff member,” the report said.
“There is an ongoing problem with bird faeces which is being addressed by prisoners using a high pressure water cleaner to remove the mess.”
Two pairs of underwear per inmate ‘inadequate’
The Custodial Inspector found male and female prisoners at Risdon and other Tasmanian adult correctional facilities were not being issued with enough underwear.
Clothing bags at Hobart’s Mary Hutchison Women’s facility included two pairs of underwear. (Custodial Inspector Tasmania)
“Only two pairs … this appears inadequate and, as a minimum, TPS should include in the standard clothing issue at least four pairs of underpants,” Mr Connock wrote.
“Anecdotally, many prisoners handwash their underwear in order to clean it properly.”
The report said the two tracksuits issued to prisoners was also inadequate and meant there was limited opportunity for prisoners to wash their clothes.
One prisoner who raised concerns said they found it “humiliating when your family visit and you have holes in your clothes”.
The report was also critical of inmates being released from custody in prison-issued tracksuits, with no formal arrangements to provide civilian clothing upon their re-entering society.
“The solution could be as simple as providing black or grey tracksuit pants which are not as obvious as the maroon prison-issued tracksuit,” Mr Connock said.
The Department of Justice said it had “initiated a project to address the issue of suitable discharge clothing for prisoners”.
Earlier this month, Victorian prison authorities urged their facilities to place an order of plain grey tracksuits after the ABC enquired about an ex-prisoner spotted on a train wearing the same tracksuit he was in when released from custody.
The report found inmates “often had to eat their meals next to their toilets”. (Custodial Inspector Tasmania )
The Tasmanian report found there were also cases of second-hand undies circulating at Launceston Reception Prison, a practice the Department of Justice said had since ceased.
“It is not acceptable for prisoners to wear previously used underwear, even if it is freshly washed,” Mr Connock said.
Mr Connock noted that “the female prisoners had recently been issued with hot pink t-shirts and these items appear to be popular”.
At Launceston Reception Prison, many in-cell toilets lacked lids and were located near prisoners’ beds, meaning germs emitted from a flush would end up on the prisoner’s bed and, in some cases, pillow, the report noted.
Prisoners were “locked in their room at meal times and often had to eat their meals next to their toilets”, Mr Connock said.
“This is degrading and an unhygienic infectious risk and the practise should be reviewed.”
The various facilities at Risdon have housed a number of high-profile prisoners. (ABC News: Jack Tegg)
Prisoner advocate Greg Barns said the inadequacy of inmates’ clothing had been an issue for years.
“We are aware of cases on some occasions, when there have been lockdowns, prisoners have had to wear the same soiled underwear day after day and in a civilised society that shouldn’t happen,” he said.
“It’s part of a lack of human rights perspective that governs the way our prison system works and that’s the fault of successive governments.”
The Department of Justice said many of the report’s recommendations had been accepted in principle, with more detailed work to be done on the cost and implementation.
In its response, the department said:
- Various humane methods have been, and continue to be taken, to address the increasing rabbit population at Risdon Prison;
- The department will implement a reception pack that will provide additional socks and underwear. TPS will add underwear and socks to the canteen list to enable prisoners to purchase;
- TPS has initiated a project to address the issue suitable discharge clothing for prisoners; and,
- TPS will install toilet seats and lids on all toilets where appropriate.