The Increase Of Prison Guards Being Assaulted By Inmates
Over the years, the issue of Prison Guards being assaulted while on duty has increased dramatically. Although nobody can identify the real reasons as to what has given rise to this increase, we suspect that it may have some relevance to the behaviors of these Prison Guards, and particularly in the way in which they mistreat the inmates. Conversely, is it simply because the prison guards have lost the respect of inmates because of the incidents that we see in the media of guards abusing their power within their duty?
GUARDS BREAKING THE LAW
It has been reported that in early February 2019, a senior Windsor prison guard was charged with 12 counts of alleged sexual assaults of female inmates, two of these inmates at Dillwynia Correctional Centre in Windsor, Sydney. The offender is currently on bail however, when he was in custody he was in protection because of the outrage it would have caused between other inmates after knowing this officer had committed a crime which some might regard as an abuse of power.
Another incident is when a Cessnock prison guard admitted to smuggling mobile phones, tobacco and frozen steaks for maximum security prisoners in return of a financial gain. In scenarios where prison guards smuggle contraband, it is generally the case that family and friends provide these funds to the guards.
GUARDS BEING ASSAULTED ON DUTY
The most recent discussed case is the incident from 2017 when Bassam Hamzy, a maximum security inmate at Goulburn Correctional Centre, brutally assaulted a Prison Officer and was sentenced to a period of 20 months on top of his already lengthy sentence.
The recent decision made by Judge Graham in relation to Bassam Hamzy’s sentence for bashing a prison guard was slashed after a court found he had been wrongly punished twice for his 2017 attack on a prison officer. His Honour stated that he was firstly wrongly punished by losing his custody privileges and secondly through the extension of his already lengthy sentence.
Acting Judge Graham said the way prisoners were punished within the four walls of the Goulburn Supermax, as well as in the courts ‘constituted an extreme case of oppression‘.
This decision made by Judge Graham has not only affected the wider community and the employees of Corrective Services NSW, but also the inmates who are serving time in gaol. This decision led to officers across the state going on strike on 8 March 2019 and continued to do so until last Monday 11 March 2019.
During this period inmates were in lockdown as there were only skeleton staff supervising the Correctional Centres and these resources were just not enough to run the operations of the gaol. Legal visits and family visits were cancelled throughout this period. This also caused a backlog of court appearances, wasting valuable Court time. Stewart Little, the General Secretary of the Public Service Association stated in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald that:
“As predicted, reversing Bassam Hamzy’s extra jail time for attacking an officer has sent a dangerous message”.
Mr Little also stated:
” offenders have heard the signal loud and clear, and they now believe it’s open season for bashing prison officers.”
More than two-thirds of prison officers in the state walked off the job. The union said that in the past week, one attack had seen a guard hospitalised, another assaulted with faeces and urine, and a third attack where two officers were bashed, one needing stitches above his eye.
Urgent advice has been sought from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions on whether it will appeal the recent District Court judgement in relation to the matter of Hamzy.
WAS IT WRONG TO OVERRULE AND REMOVE THE EXTENSION OF HIS DETENTION?
The larger community agrees that the removal of Bassam Hamzy’s detention was wrong but others may argue otherwise. The opinions that are against this decision have concerns for the safety of the guards on duty. The opinions for his Honours decision is mainly for the fact that the prisoners already get punished within the Correctional Centres and giving them an additional sentence in this regard may be deemed erroneous.
New South Wales Corrections Minister David Elliott has sought urgent legal advice on whether to appeal against the quashing of Bassam Hamzy’s conviction for assaulting a prison officer.