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A prison break which saw a prisoner escape Adelaide Remand Centre (ARC) on Tuesday morning, comes as no surprise to custodial officers working at the facility.

United Workers Union members employed as custodial officers at the Adelaide Remand Centre (ARC) have raised numerous concerns about understaffing and their safety at work over the past 12 months.

These concerns are underpinned by widespread understaffing, being subject to violence and intimidation and issues such as not being able to take meal breaks.

Custodial officers claim that under ARC’s contract provider Serco the staffing level to run the facility is less than half the number of staff engaged prior to privatisation.

This reduction in staff may explain the $8 million dollars per year in savings claimed by the State Government when they awarded Serco the contract in 2019.

Comparisons in relation to staffing levels, now and prior to privatisation:• In the gym / recreational area – Serco one officer, prior to privatisation four officers
• In the AVL video conferencing areas – Serco one officer, prior to privatisation two officers
• In the medical area – Serco two officers, prior to privatisation three officers
• In each unit – Serco two officers, prior to privatisation four officers

Furthermore, the (Serco) officer to prisoner ratio in a unit should be no more than 46 prisoners to two officers. Numbers can be well over 46 at times which should initiate additional staff brought into the unit, but this does not occur.

Custodial officers are particularly concerned by the gym area where there can be 60 prisoners to one officer. Prisons must move through the officer section (where the officer sits and has no CCTV that monitors this area) to access the weights room.

Workers have also raised:
• They work a 9.3-hour shift but are only relieved for breaks about a third of the time. Officers will have another officer bring their lunch to where they are working.
• They experience violence whilst on duty and have genuine concerns for their ongoing safety.

United Workers Union spokesperson Godfrey Moase said: “Our members have been raising issues of understaffing and concerns for their safety over the last 12 months, ever since the privatisation of the facility took place.

“It was only a matter of time before Serco’s damaging choice to understaff and undervalue the safety of their workers resulted in a serious incident. Serco is now stalling enterprise bargaining negotiations after offering the lowest rates of pay for a correctional facility in Australia.”


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