• Prison inmates are seen rioting on the roof of Parklea Correctional Centre on July 12. (Getty Images AsiaPac)Source: Getty Images AsiaPac
The conditions inside the prison have been slammed following a protest on Monday where inmates spelled BLM on its roof and raised their fists against racism.
Jennetta Quinn-Bates

13 Jul 2021 - 7:19 PM  UPDATED 13 Jul 2021 - 7:19 PM

The environment within Sydney's Parklea prison has come under the spotlight after a number of inmates protested against racism on its roof on Monday afternoon.

Up to 14 inmates broke their lockdown for the three-hour demonstration, spelling out BLM using items of clothing and holding their fists in the air.

Tactical guards then restrained the men with tear gas and pepper spray.

Raymond Finn, a father of a Parklea inmate, said he attended the prison yesterday afternoon to pick up his son and was highly concerned for the safety of his boy and the other inmates when he arrived.

“The conditions inside are terrible! People are regularly abused by guards, and with the COVID restrictions, many haven’t seen their families for a long time," he said.

"This is a private prison making profit off the misery of our people and it needs to stop.

“So many of our people are filling up the jails. We’re the most incarcerated people on the face of the planet. Here in NSW we’re more than 25% of people in prison, despite making up only 3% of the population.”


'History of mismanagement and abuse'

Corrective Services NSW appointed private company MTC-Broadspectrum as the new operator of Parklea Correctional Centre in 2018, with it taking control of running the prison in March 2019.

Multi-national corporations gain profits from running privatised prisons and charge governments a cost per prisoner per day.

While Parklea's owners market it as a 'safe, decent and secure centre' that reduces recidivism and looks after its employees, NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said the prison has "a long history of mismanagement and abuse" and its current owners have a poor management record internationally.

“What we saw yesterday was the result of a long pent-up series of concerns at that facility, (inclusing) abuse of First Nations inmates (and) some endemic racism that has been reported time after time in this facility," he told NITV News.

“It’s been reported by the prison as a riot, but if you look to the images you can see young Aboriginal men... stepping forward and protesting about the conditions... (and) the abuse that’s been happening.

“There are multiple reports having come out from Parklea of very aggressive, abusive responses, especially to First Nations inmates ... Many of those inmates only get the message out through families and family members.”

First Nations women stripped searched at alarming rate at Canberra prison
Less than 1 per cent of the searches found any contraband, with advocates calling for an immediate ban on the 'distressing' practice.

Authorities deny racial motivation

Corrective Services NSW and Parklea prison operator, MTC-Broadspectrum strongly deny any accusations of racism and claimed the riot was drug-related.

“Describing the riot at Parklea Correctional facility yesterday (Monday 12 July) as being racially motivated, is completely false and misleading," Corrective Services NSW said in a statement.

"Ongoing investigations by the NSW Corrections Security and Intelligence branch suggest the incident at Parklea was drug-related. While on the roof, the inmates made a number of demands for buprenorphine to the Security Operations Group officers.

"This incident involved inmates attempting to retrieve contraband from a roof area as well as throwing multiple missiles at responding staff and lighting fires."

After initially telling NITV they had spoken to all media outlets that they intended on speaking with and refusing to provide a statement, A spokesperson for MTC-Broadspectrum praised the response from the prison guards.

“Parklea Correctional Centre’s Immediate Response Team and the Security Operations Group did an excellent job yesterday to safely resolve the incident at the prison, with no injuries to staff," they said in a statement.

"We are now investigating the cause of the incident and all inmates involved will be referred to NSW Police.”