Not far enough - review of cover up of prison officer assaults won’t scratch the surface


The NSW Government has today announced an independent review of the circumstances that allowed Corrective Services officer Wayne Astill to sexually assault female inmates at Dillwynia Correctional Centre. The probe announcement follows the shocking revelations that Wayne Astill was shrouded in a protection racket in the system to commit the horrendous crimes that he did.  

Greens MP and spokesperson for justice Sue Higginson said: “The circumstances that allowed the horrendous abuse of female inmates over years is evidence of entrenched and systemic failures within the corrections system in NSW. To suggest otherwise is part of the problem. While we welcome the announcement that the Minister for Corrections will establish a review headed by a judicial officer into the circumstances at Dillwynia, we have not seen the terms of reference, so we don’t know what we are actually investigating and a review that is restricted to that specific correctional centre goes nowhere near far enough.  

“We need a response that is commensurate with the problems that we know are happening within our prison system. The conditions in NSW prisons are abhorrent across the State, it is these conditions that are leading to systemic failures, human rights abuses and criminal conduct perpetrated against some of the most vulnerable people in our society. We need an inquiry that examines what’s going wrong across the entire prison system and how we can do better.  

“The State is failing in the duty of care it owes to prisoners. When we imprison a person we take away their liberty, but we are responsible for their safety and human rights. What happened at Dillwynia can happen in any of our prisons. We saw the recently reported abuse of a First Nations inmate at Parklea, the 10 fold increase of the cost of phone calls in prisons across the State, denial of access to UN inspectors late last year, Corrective Services officers blowing the whistle on human right violations at Goulburn Correctional Centre and ongoing industrial action across the three privately managed prisons Parklea, Clarence and Junee Correctional Centres.  

“It is clear there are widespread issues in correctional centres across NSW. Inmates are routinely denied critical medical care and mental health support, access to proper educational programs is limited or non-existent, inmates in remand are often held for months on end without any access to rehabilitative programs and they frequently report gross human rights violations that happen inside our prisons. The culture that allowed what happened at Dillwynia is a culture I suspect is not limited to one prison. We need to shine a light on this and take the steps needed for reform.  

“Our approach to prisons in this state is fundamentally wrong. While other countries are responding to research that shows mass incarceration doesn’t make our communities safer, here in NSW more than half of people who go to prison reoffend within ten years. This is more than double the rate of countries like Norway who approach corrections with aims of rehabilitation and restoration. Our punitive failing approach costs taxpayers billions of dollars and perpetuates a dark stain on our state’s human rights record.  

“I frequently receive alarming reports from distressed families of inmates that tell me there are serious cultural problems in our prisons. It was reported to me recently that an inmate at Parklea with type one diabetes was denied use of critical medical equipment to monitor his blood sugar while in his cell, another inmate at Silverwater waited over four weeks for a head scan for a suspected brain injury, inmates with disabilities report being subject to all kinds of abuse and across the board inmates report being locked in their cells for over 40 hours at least once a week.  

“Right now it seems like people get locked up, abused, denied basic medical care and are cut off from their families. This is completely unacceptable, the Minister must consider a broader inquiry that seeks to bring about serious reform.” Ms Higginson said.  

For media comment contact: Sue Higginson 0428 227 363