Corrections staff working at Canberra's jail have expressed concern for their safety and that of the inmates after Tuesday night's volatile three-and-a-half-hour stand-off inside the prison.
Four fires were lit, thousands of dollars in prison property damaged and staff and firefighters pelted with projectiles during the incident, in which 27 inmates refused to be locked down in their cells for the night and began a demonstration which spilled from the jail's north accommodation wing into the yard outside.
Sources have told The Canberra Times it was fortunate the fracas began right at the end of the Alexander Maconochie Centre's customary day shift and there were enough custodial staff available on site to lock down the rest of the prison, isolate the demonstrating prisoners and manage the situation.
If the incident had occurred even 30 minutes later, there would have been far fewer staff available and it was likely that police tactical teams would have had to intervene.
Staff morale at the prison has been described as being at "rock bottom", with officers unable to maintain their certification in some important use-of-force apparatus such as CS, or tear gas.
Madeline Northam, the ACT regional secretary for the Community and Pubic Sector Union (CPSU), said corrections officers were not being offered adequate training or tools "to get the job done as safely as possible".
"This week we have seen a riot and three code reds at the AMC, [and] our members have serious concerns for inmates and their own safety," Ms Northam said.
She said the union had not been successful in reaching a suitable resolution of its members' concerns with ACT Corrective Commissioner Jon Peach, and had put forward similar requests to the previous Corrections Minister, Shane Rattenbury.
With the post-election elevation of Greens leader Mr Rattenbury to ACT Attorney-General, the trouble-plagued Corrections portfolio has now been handed to Labor MLA Mick Gentleman.
"This is not a regular workplace, our members are dealing with a very dangerous cohort of inmates, and they need all tools available to them," Ms Northam said.
"The CPSU and its members have been making the case for stable staffing, up-to-date training, and available resources to former minister Rattenbury for months prior to the elections to no avail.
"The commissioner is inhibiting our members' ability to keep themselves and other inmates safe.
"It's not acceptable that it takes a riot and three code reds for the commission to take any notice. It is our hope that the new minister will fix the mess that former corrections minister Rattenbury has left behind."
Corrections officers are specifically concerned with the low staffing levels and the lack of training in the updated use of gas and batons.
The newly installed minister, Mick Gentleman - who was a former Transport Workers Union project officer before entering politics - said that the CPSU's claims were "concerning" and he would be discussing them further with the union and the Inspector of Corrections.
He has had an initial meeting with the CPSU about the issues and ordered a full report on Tuesday's incident from the independent inspector, Neil McAllister. He also intends to visit the jail and talk to staff.
"It's important that staff at the AMC are adequately trained, equipped and supported to do their jobs," he said.