The Andrews Labor Government has today released and responded to the independent investigation into the riot at the Metropolitan Remand Centre on 30 June and 1 July this year.
As part of its response, the Government has announced that work has also begun on a major security upgrade at MRC, including replacing internal wire fences, including those breached by prisoners during the riot, with concrete walls that cannot be pushed over.
The investigation by former Police Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe was asked to consider the events of 30 June and 1 July, review the State's response and preparedness, identify learnings and recommend improvements.
The report acknowledges the professionalism and courage of officers from Corrections Victoria, Victoria Police and emergency services.
Mr Walshe finds that a review of available information and intelligence does not suggest Corrections Victoria knew, or ought to have known, a riot of this magnitude would occur.
It finds that the smoking ban was the catalyst for the riot. Specifically, the riot was triggered by inaccurate rumours about the ban and anger that the prison canteen had run out of tobacco earlier than it should have.
The review also identifies other factors contributed to the riot, including overcrowding caused by a rapid rise in inmate numbers, and the structural failure of internal fences and barriers.
However, Mr Walshe's report has identified a number of areas where authorities must improve.
The review makes 17 recommendations relating to:
- strengthening MRC’s internal fences and security infrastructure
- reviewing Corrections Victoria’s emergency response capacity
- improving readiness and response to major prison incident
- better technology and procedures for emergency control
- adopting contemporary incident management systems
Corrections Victoria accepts the recommendations and has started implementing them.
The Government has asked Mr Walshe to provide independent oversight to ensure the recommendations are implemented and to report on their progress in 12 months.
MRC is almost back to its pre-riot condition after extensive repairs at a cost of $10 million to $12 million.
In line with Mr Walshe’s recommendations, the Government today sets out a $52 million infrastructure plan to strengthen security at MRC.
The security upgrade will take between 12 and 18 months. It will include concrete walls to separate the prison yards and fortifications to the prison’s traffic hub, the Central Movement Control.
The upgrade will also make officers' posts inside accommodation units more secure, increase the number of CCTV cameras and reinforce other parts of the prison.
Funding for the upgrade will be redirected from building projects earmarked for minimum security prisons.
These projects are currently on hold because the total prison population is beginning to stabilise and has even decreased in minimum security prisons.
In addition, we are improving the training provided to prison officers by:
- increasing by a third the numbers in the Security and Emergency Services Group – these are specialist officers trained to deal with major disturbances and riots
- trebling the number of prison officers with advanced riot training
- expanding the tactical response training of all general prison officers
This will cost $4.4 million annually and will come from redirected funds.
The report is available below with sensitive material relating to operational security removed.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Corrections Wade Noonan
“This government welcomes the independent review and acknowledges the bravery and professionalism of those who worked tirelessly to quell this riot.”
“The behaviour of the rioters at Metropolitan Remand Centre was unacceptable.”
“We are taking immediate steps to prevent a riot like this from ever happening again by making MRC stronger.”
Reviewed 10 February 2021