Consultation between a union and Corrective Services about changes at Goulburn Correctional Centre started this week.
It was one of the "small wins" the Public Service Association said it achieved after hitting back over a plan to shift 125 maximum security inmates to more modern prisons around the state. The Association is concerned about staff impacts and the facility's long-term future.
PSA president, Nicole Jess, is also hopeful that NSW Premier Chris Minns will visit Goulburn this week to meet with "relevant stakeholders." The Association has written to the premier and corrections minister, Anoulack Chanthivong, over the matter.
Mayor Peter Walker has also joined in calls for assurances and clarity over Goulburn Correctional Centre's and employees' future.
Ms Jess said following the union's reaction, Corrective Services had agreed to six months' consultation before phase two of the plan was implemented in 2025 "if it happened at all." This involves relocation of the last 170 inmates in maximum security, affecting 58 staff, the union says.
In a statement, Corrective Services said no staff would lose their job or be forced to transfer. Furthermore, the changes were "temporary" until inmate numbers increased.
"If inmate numbers rise, they'll have to open up beds," Ms Jess said.
"We will still be campaigning around key issues of domestic violence and looking at whether the COVID protocols are being reduced and inmates who should be in custody are going back into custody."
The maximum security units accommodate 341 inmates but currently house about between 100 and 110, Ms Jess says. She claimed Corrective Services had relocated about 15 prisoners "by stealth" before Christmas.
Ms Jess said relocation of 170 inmates under phase one would have "little effect" because the 20 affected staff would be absorbed into existing vacancies. Nevertheless she hoped to "claw back" five of these staff due to their dual roles.
The Association has also secured information it demanded from Corrective Services, including current vacancies in centres and court locations, vacancies due to long-term absences including workers compensation and maternity leave and the future for casual employees.
The union provided feedback on this and consultation with staff in all five prisons occurred on Monday, January 29. Phase one will be implemented on February 26.
The Association agreed "in good faith" that staff could submit expressions of interest to transfer to other prisons.
"Corrective Services is still saying it's only temporary but when we asked what this meant, they said it could be anywhere up to five years," Ms Jess said.
"We say that's not temporary and our advice to staff in country areas is not to move because they (Corrective Services) are not offering transfer packages."
Ms Jess said the number of workers compensation cases was "not sustainable" and has requested a breakdown between physical and psycho-social claims. She argued the government needed to address this issue across several fronts, including police and ambulance, through a mental health plan. This would reduce insurance premiums and "put more money at the front-end."
But the Association is still calling for assurances over Goulburn Correctional Centre's long-term viability.
Ms Jess said the facility had historically played an important role in housing inmates and keeping the community safe and argued this shouldn't change now.
"If you take one (staff member) out of there who has three or four kids it can affect hospitals, schools and the wider economy," she said.
"What's the long-term viability of Goulburn (Correctional Centre)? Is it heritage listed, what are their intentions? Are they going to build somewhere else in the Goulburn area to ensure its viability?"
The original section of Goulburn jail, including the maximum security units, was designed by colonial architect, James Barnet in 1883. It is listed on the state's heritage register, by the National Trust and on Goulburn Mulwaree's LEP.