A wild riot broke out in at South Australia’s highest security prison after Covid-19 related staff shortages forced the facility into lockdown.
The violent weekend protests within one wing of Yatala Labour Prison in Northfield were sparked by frustrated inmates on Saturday when locked down — or confined to their cells — for lunch.
According to 9 News, sinks were torn off walls and metal sheeting was ripped from the cells of the Adelaide prison.
Footage from the prison showed hallways covered with rubbish and debris.
While nobody was injured during the incident, it has prompted calls from the prison guards’ union for a review.
Natasha Brown from the Public Service Association largely blamed the systemic understaffing on the previous government’s benchmarking policy.
She said it cut costs across the prison system by making them run on minimal staff.
“There is no capacity for sick leave or any other type of absences before the jails get to a point they are so critically understaffed, they need to be placed into lockdown,” she told 5AA radio on Wednesday.
“We’re seeing this happen more and more frequently and the concerning thing is … jails are dangerous places at the best of times and short staffed prisons are extremely dangerous environments for our workers but also for the prisoners.
“With these lockdowns and understaffing running so frequently and regularly, it’s only a matter of time before something much more serious happens and that’s a major concern.”
A Correctional Services Department spokesperson confirmed some prisoners caused damage to their cells in the wing on Saturday and said their behaviour was “appropriately dealt with” by staff.
“The involved prisoners were separated. There was no threat to the good order and security of the prison,” they said in a statement.
“The prison was locked down due to a high number of staff isolating due to Covid-19.”
Corrections spokesman Tim Whetstone said an immediate review of the dangerous incident was needed and should be released to avoid a repeated incident.
He said the pandemic shouldn’t be used as an excuse that put workers‘ lives at risk.
“It is shocking to hear the PSA say lockdowns are becoming more common because understaffing in South Australian prisons is not being addressed,” Mr Whetstone said.
“Labor’s Corrections Minister Joe Szakacs must act immediately and commit to boosting resources in our prisons to keep guards and inmates safe at all times.
“If violence like this continues it is only a matter of time before a guard or prisoner is seriously injured or killed.
“Boost staff numbers and keep everyone safe. It’s that simple.”