Prison staff at Parklea Correctional Centre in New South Wales used “chemical munitions” on inmates after they protested racism and Indigenous incarceration.
On Monday at 2.00pm, 14 inmates climbed onto the roof of the accommodation wing and wrote ‘BLM’, meaning Black Lives Matter, out of bed sheets before raising their fists in the air.
The inmates broke lockdown to partake in the three-hour demonstration.
Parklea Correctional Centre is a private-owned prison, operated by MTC-Broadspectrum.
In a statement, a spokesperson for MTC-Broadspectrum said that the “Security Operations Group and correctional officers” used “chemical munitions” on the 14 inmates on the roof and an additional 50 in the yard who were refusing to follow staff directions.
They also noted that inmates lit fires and NSW Corrective Services officers were deployed to control the protest.
Armed officers stormed the roof and physically removed inmates at 5.00pm.
The cause of the incident is being investigated by NSW Corrections, however, concerns have arisen around the conditions within the facility.
Aboriginal activist and father of a young man incarcerated at Parklea, Raymond Finn addressed the media on Tuesday.
“I need to speak up for those young fellas who were protesting yesterday. They were taking brave action to try and highlight the plight of our people who continue to be brutalised by prisons and police,” he said.
Finn said the inmates took “a stand against racism of the prison system”.
“They were then assaulted and detained by guards. Guards had been given permission to shoot the inmates which is disgraceful. So many of our people are filling up the jails,” he said.
“We are the most incarcerated people on the face of the planet. Here in NSW, we are more than 25 per cent of people in prison despite being only three per cent of the population.”
Finn said his own children have been “constantly harassed and intimidated by police”.
“Police harassment is big part of the reason why so many young First Nations people are in jail. There are no opportunities for our people, there is no rehabilitation if they are struggling, they just fill up the jails,” he said.
Finn described the conditions inside the facility as “terrible” with inmates being regularly abused and COVID-19 restrictions stopping families from visiting their loved ones.
“This is a private prison making profit off the misery of our people and it needs to stop,” he said.
“They need to set our people free. Too many are inside for petty offences. They are safer outside and should be receiving services and opportunities to help get their lives on track.
“We salute their brave stand yesterday saying Black Lives Matter.”
Parklea Correctional Centre Governor Paul Baker said prison staff did an “excellent job”.
“The officers have done an excellent job, utilising their specialised training, to resolve this situation safely,” he said.
“I commend the teams from the security operations group and Parklea’s immediate response team for their skilful handling of this situation.”
By Rachael Knowles