Posted on March 15, 2005

Jail Race War Explodes

Mark Buttler, Herald-Sun (Melbourne), Mar. 15

RACIAL warfare between Aboriginal and Pacific Island prisoners has forced the lockdown of Victoria’s biggest maximum security jail.

Months of simmering tensions exploded in a brawl by up to 20 prisoners at Port Phillip Prison on Sunday.

All inmates have been confined to their cells since then.

The Herald Sun believes the melee was sparked by a fight early in the afternoon between an Aboriginal inmate and a Pacific Islander.

The Aborigine, an alleged ringleader of the 1998 Melbourne Custody Centre riot, was badly injured in the fracas.

Prisoners from other units are believed to have tried to scale walls to join the brawl.

The fight follows several other incidents at the prison in recent months.

In one of these a Pacific Islander was badly injured.

He was bashed, knifed and burned with boiling water after a gang of prisoners set upon him.

Staff have complained there were just seven guards on duty supervising 700 prisoners at Port Phillip on Sunday.

They have served a provisional improvement notice on management demanding changes.

Correctional Services Commissioner Kelvin Anderson said he knew GSL Custodial Services, the company that runs the jail, had been negotiating with the Community and Public Sector Union.

“The provider, GSL, has got an issue and I understand they are working with the union to resolve it,” he said.

“I expect they will resolve this matter quickly.”

A GSL spokesman said the company was aware of a dispute causing concern to staff.

He said the lockdown had not affected visits, distribution of medicine, inmate escorts or the prison industries section.

“We’re working closely with the union to resolve this matter,” the spokesman said.