Jail managers blamed for brutal prison attack

Steve McMahon, chairman of the Prison Officer’s branch of the Public Services Union Photo: Channel SevenThe “complete failure” of prison managers to share critical information with the rest of the staff is to blame for a brutal attack allegedly carried out by an Islamic State supporter on his cell mate, the prison officers’ union says.

The 18-year-old Islamic State supporter, who was imprisoned at the Mid-North Coast Correctional Centre in Kempsey, allegedly used a sharp tool to carve the letters “e4e” into the forehead of a fellow inmate on Thursday.

The letters were an apparent reference to the terrorist group’s “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” mantra.

The general manager of the correctional centrehas been suspendedpending the outcome of an internal investigation, NSW Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin told reporters in Sydney on Sunday.

The 40-year-old victim, who reportedly served in East Timor, is “close to being released back to a correctional centre”, the Department of Corrective Services said.

The teenager had a maximum security classification and the former soldier had a minimum security classification.

NSW Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin. Photo: Peter Rae

Steve McMahon, chairman of the Prison Officer’s branch of the Public Services Union, said the two should never have been locked in a cell together.

However, he alleges that managers failed to pass on vital information about the radicalised prisoner that “would have prevented”the vicious attack.

“We believe there was sufficient informationthat, if acted on correctly, would have prevented this from happening,” Mr McMahon said.

“It was a complete failure by the people in positions of responsibility, who had access to that information, to share it with the people who needed it to do their job.”

He said prison officers made decisions about which inmates to place together “every day”, based on the evidence provided to them.

However, in this case, “the evidence that said that they shouldn’t have been together was mismanaged or withheld for some unknown reason”.

“It was a bad choice of cells based on incorrect information,” Mr McMahon said.

He added that prison officers had been particularly distressed by Thursday’s unprovoked attack, in which the teenager allegedly carved letters into the front and back of the older inmate’s head and crushed his sternum before placing a towel over his head and pouring boiling hot water over it.

“It’s quite a horrendous piece of work, not unlike torture,” he said.

Inappropriate or careless cell placementhas contributed to more than 20 deaths in NSW prison custody in the 10 years to 2011, according to coronial reports.

Andfailure to communicate vital informationabout prisoners’ health and safety has been implicated in more than a dozen deaths-in-custody cases, including at least three homicides.

Mr McMahon said such incidents were “rare” but they demonstrated why it was “critical that managers, when they receive information, deal with it correctly”.

The Mid North Coast Correctional Centre at Kempsey

He said the Public Services Association believed the teenager had previously demonstrated “radical Muslim views” but the department had failed to act on it.

“The last year they’ve been denying there’s any problem with radicalised Muslims or any other radicalised individual in jail,” he said.

“We’ve been calling on them to produce a policy on such and allocate some programs and resources for it.”

He said the daily interaction between prison staff and inmates meant Corrective Services officers were in a unique position to help address the rise of religious fundamentalism in jails.

“[But] at the moment we don’t believe that we’re being adequately equipped to deal with this new threat.”

The Department of Corrective Services told Fairfax Media it would seek “an independent assessment of its policies and procedures for the placement of fundamentalist inmates” following the attack.

“CSNSW has seen a gradual increase in the number of fundamentalist inmates in recent years and, while that number remains small, ongoing efforts are placed on dealing with any possible violent extremism,” a spokesperson said.

“Its officers are trained and ready to deal with the changing and increasingly volatile mix of inmates in the state’s prisons.”