SENSATIONAL claims have emerged of a female prisoner being held “like an animal” in Wagga’s court cells for nearly two weeks because of a chronic prison bed shortage.
A whistle-blower told The Daily Advertiser the local mum, who was denied bail after being swept up in a massive drug blitz in mid-June, had languished in a six-metre by four-metre cell with no natural air or natural light for at least 12 days. The 1800s-era cells are designed to hold prisoners for overnight or short stays only.
The whistle-blower, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, described the conditions as “appalling”, saying the cells had no exercise yard and the woman had been forced to eat the same food – microwaved pies and sausage rolls – for lunch and breakfast for the 12 days since she was locked up.
“These prisoners are still human beings … you wouldn’t house animals in these conditions,” he said. “She doesn’t even know what time of day it is until we bring her a meal and she asks what meal it is. She should be innocent until proven guilty.”
Correction officers were even being forced to collect the woman’s medication from hospital and lend her their mobile phones so she could make calls, he said.
“We’re not trained medically; we’re not psychologists or welfare officers,” he said. “She should have been in Mulawa (Silverwater Women’s Correctional Centre) but there are no female beds left anywhere.”
The woman has no access to radio or TV and is briefly allowed access to a courtyard each day, he said. He claimed three men caught in the same drug sting were held in the same police cell for eight days, with two sleeping on the floor and one on the bed.
A Corrective Services NSW spokesman said the woman had been transferred to a prison in recent days.
“It is rare for an inmate to spend that length of time in a court cell,” he said.
“The number of women in custody is increasing and Corrective Services NSW is working to ensure they have appropriate accommodation.
“All court cells have toilets, running water, air conditioning and heating, and inmates have access to daily exercise and showers. Most are in enclosed areas.
“The government approved an extra 691 prisoner beds in 2014 and 950 beds earlier this year to meet demand and these are being introduced at prisons across the state.”
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