WA Prison Guards Fear Another Big Riot
Prison officers feared for their lives during a massive riot at a regional West Australian prison last year and worry it could happen again.
The 12-hour riot at Greenough Regional Prison in July caused millions of dollars’ worth of damage as violent inmates used chunks of concrete, Molotov cocktails, chemical agents, batons and shovels against guards.
Ten prisoners also escaped after climbing the roof, breaking into the maintenance workshop and using an unsecured angle grinder to release two ladders to scale fences.
Speaking publicly for the first time on Friday, a female guard said she had never seen anything like it.
"We were watching the prisoners on camera during the riot trying to break lights so that the prison officers couldn't see what they were doing next," she said.
"It was an extremely frightening situation for those four hours before reinforcements arrived."
She answered a call from female inmates, who were locked inside and could smell toxic smoke from a fire.
"It was the worst feeling in the world not being able to go in and help them," she said.
"It is still hard to talk about without getting upset."
The guard described the melee as "an extremely harrowing and long night".
"Officers feared for their lives. We are all so extremely lucky no one was seriously injured or killed," she said.
"I fear it could happen again. I am still not confident the prison will be safe once it is back up to full capacity."
Another guard said some officers were yet to return to work because they were suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
"Prison officers are the ones who have to work 12-hour days with those criminals that the rest of society doesn't want to live with," he said.
Their comments coincide with National Corrections Day.
Recommendations from a review into the fracas included better security, a staffing audit and focusing on Aboriginal and female inmates.