Up to 15 existing positions may be lost at Goulburn Correctional Centre if relocation of inmates to 'more modern facilities' goes ahead, a union says.
The total loss could be as high as 80 jobs, factoring more than 50 current vacancies and workers compensation cases, Public Service Association (PSA) president and senior correctional officer, Nicole Jess said.
Corrective Services has rejected this, saying there will be no staff cuts and any impacted employees can remain at their current correctional centres under the changes.
Under a Corrective Services NSW review of prison beds, inmates at Goulburn's maximum security wings three and four would be moved to other facilities. It's understood about 125 of the 341 beds in these areas are currently occupied.
"CSNSW is constantly reviewing its operating bed network to ensure that it supports the current inmate population, anticipated growth or decline, and operating environment," a spokesperson said.
"Our prisons have the capacity to accommodate approximately 15,600 people although the current daily average population is around 12,300 inmates.
"...The changes will ensure a greater use of beds that are modern, not aged, and improve inmate management and service delivery by accommodating those in custody in areas that are more fit-for-purpose.
"These changes seek to provide better working environments for our staff, and improved conditions for inmate rehabilitation."
In 2022 an Inspector of Custodial Services report recommended eventual closure of Goulburn's two 1884 maximum security wings, describing them as "inadequate." At the time, Corrective Services acknowledged it didn't meet NSW standards, something it was "actively pursuing."
The changes would not affect the two high-risk management units.
But the PSA has slammed the current process, "lack of consultation" with staff and said the move would have a "massive" impact on regions like Goulburn and Bathurst.
"This process is the worst I've seen," Ms Jess said.
"I've been doing this job 35 years. I've (worked with) quite a few commissioners but I've never seen a reform done with so little information, such a lack of consultation and lack of respect for staff."
Ms Jess has also rejected Corrective Services' claims the changes were "temporary," maintaining the facilities would be "mothballed" until inmate numbers reached at least 14,000.
The changes will affect Goulburn, Bathurst, Cessnock, Long Bay and the Outer Metropolitan special- purpose centre. Up to 250 staff will be impacted, the union says.
Goulburn staff were initially advised of the changes in a bulletin on Wednesday, January 10. They and union officials will be briefed by management in a "slide-show presentation" at the centre on Wednesday, January 18.
Ms Jess said while it made some sense to shut off old beds and put inmates in modern facilities, Corrective Services had discarded 'proper process.'
"If the assistant commissioner thinks that a phone call to our general secretary is consultation, it's not," she said.
"...With any reform they are required under NSW Premier and Cabinet guidelines to consult with unions, provide a change management and human resourcing plans and costings. They must have a rationale."
Instead, she described it as "rushed" with no holistic analysis of why prison numbers had dropped, infrastructure upgrades or alternatives.
The union has written to the department demanding answers.
Reduced inmate numbers
Ms Jess said court system changes since COVID and bail laws had reduced custodial sentences. Instead, offenders were "released into the community", lowering the prison population.
"We do know there are 32,000 people out in the community on domestic violence related offences. We are very concerned about the number doing domestic violence programs and that one person dies in our state every week from domestic violence," she said.
"What is this government doing to keep our state safe?"
The PSA is embarking on a domestic violence awareness campaign.
Ms Jess said Goulburn would be hard hit by the changes as unlike the Hunter, it didn't have other prisons nearby or numerous court locations to which staff could transfer.
Corrective Services has given this option to Long Bay prison officers. However Ms Jess said it remained unclear how this would work on the ground or how Corrective Services accounted for the fact maximum security officers fulfilled other duties within the prison. In addition, it wants details on any transfer packages for officers, if they choose that option. The Post understands that transfers will not be enforced.
The union remains in dispute with the department until such information is forthcoming.
"Until we see a change management plan, there will be no consultation," she said.
The PSA has not been given firm numbers on staff impacts at this stage. This is expected to be revealed at Wednesday's Corrective Services' presentation. Nor had it been given a timeframe for prisoner relocation but Ms Jess said the department wanted to move Long Bay inmates in three weeks and then start on Goulburn.
The union has rejected this "piecemeal approach" and demanded holistic consultation.
Ms Jess believed the inmate reduction would also impact non-custodial staff, including Justice Health who looked after inmates.
Corrective Services says no industries or programs will be affected.
Ms Jess argued that Corrective Services was playing down the effect at Goulburn, citing about 50 vacancies.
"The city relies on staffing currently there and funded. Once you start reducing staff that still equates to money going out of the region," Ms Jess said.
"It is extremely concerning and I want to meet with the Minister and Premier and ask what is the plan for Goulburn because this is a community that has relied heavily on that correctional centre running at capacity for well over 100 years. But to treat staff and regional areas in this manner is appalling."
Corrective Services declined to detail its long-term plans for Goulburn Correctional Centre but said it had a responsibility to run prisons "as efficiently as possible."
A spokesperson said the department had advised the PSA it would consult on consolidation of beds at Bathurst, Goulburn, Cessnock and Long Bay.
"CSNSW is committed to working closely with the PSA and welcomes feedback to ensure any changes are informed and supported," he said.