HomeInside Goulburn Supermax: Where Australia’s worst criminals are kept

Inside Goulburn Supermax: Where Australia’s worst criminals are kept

Notorious criminals including Ivan Milat and Bilal Skaf have called this infamous prison home but now major upgrades have made the site more secure than ever.

Just two hours south of Sydney located on the outskirts of the state’s first inland city, Goulburn’s Supermax prison holds some of Australia’s most dangerous criminal offenders.

The Correctional Centre was first opened in 1884 before the country’s highest-level maximum security wing opened in 2001.

Since then some of Australia’s worst prisoners have walked the halls including Ivan Milat, who murdered seven backpackers during the 1980s to 1990s.

Today, an $11.8 million refurbishment has seen capacity soar to 75 beds from just 45, allowing Corrective Services NSW to separate convicted terrorists from other inmates and reduce radicalisation within the prison.

There are now two separate areas in the high-security prison with the latest security management systems spanning across the entire precinct.

Brick walls encapsulate the buildings with large steel doors keeping prisoners inside Area 1, where inmates are first taken at Supermax.

Acting Commissioner Kevin Corcoran said Area 1 is usually where inmates are taken initially before being integrated into Area 2.

“Many of the people in there are on terrorism offences,” he said.

“There’s lots of violence and we need to be careful about who people are put in with.”

A walk through security and the first stop is the visiting centre with two contact rooms, two family non-contact rooms and four extreme non-contact rooms, an upgrade to the three rooms in the visitor’s space previously.

Decked out with live audio surveillance, prisoners must speak in English while every conversation is listened to by correctional officers in case of any threat.

Prisoners usually get visitors once a week.

Beyond the visitors’ centre sits a state-of-the-art hi-tech body scanner everyone must go through as they arrive back at Supermax from court or medical appointments.

Before the scanner was introduced the prisoners underwent strip-searches but the new technology allows officers to see whether they have hidden contraband.

“Prisoners have been caught with syringes, there was a ring inside a person, weapons, SIM cards, mobile phones,” Intelligence officer Tim Price said.

Once a prisoner goes through the machine, an instant image is provided to the officers which can show anything from weapons hidden in the body to surgical plates and screws.

Two more doors and a long hallway leads to Unit Nine with an exercise yard on the left.

Of the 20 prisoners currently in Unit Nine, 16 are extreme high-risk restrictive inmates and four are extreme high-security.

Of them, 14 are terrorist-related offenders.

For those who want to work on their fitness for up to two and a half hours a day, there’s a chin up bar, dip bar and exposed toilet in the yard.

Correctives Officer David Smithson said only two inmates are allowed in the yard at once, each transported by three officers at a time and handcuffed until the doors are locked behind them.

Metal mesh covers the top of the outdoor areas to stop drones and helicopters from flying over and seeing inside.

Prisoners in Area 1 barely talk to each other in an attempt to put a stop to radicalisation inside the prison.

When they do talk, they are only allowed to speak English.

For some, time in the yard is the only interaction they get with other people for days.

“Prisoners can request the company of other inmates … they don’t have to come out here but usually they’re happy walking around talking,” Mr Smithson said.

Past the exercise yard is another door which leads to “day rooms” and cells.

With such a volume of terrorism-related criminals, contact is limited for inmates and the cells prove it.

Minister for Counter Terrorism and Corrections Anthony Roberts said the facility will house “some of the most dangerous people in the community”.

“None of us like the fact we need a place like this but we do,” he said.

“We live in dangerous times and changing times. You have emerging threats each and every week with respect to extremism and terrorism.

“We are leading the state and the world.”

Each day room opens up to three cells and is fitted out with cameras and phone-jamming boxes in the chance someone sneaks a mobile device inside.

The cells are small enough for one person to walk through at a time, with just a bed, small table for food, four shelves, shower and toilet.

A small television is provided behind a screen, as well as a small outdoor area for inmates to get fresh air any time of the day.

The new all-purpose built doors have windows and hatches to allow officers to serve food and look into the cell without any contact.

Water is timed within the cells allowing inmates to have showers lasting six minutes.

“Everything prisoners do has to be approved by the commissioner,” Officer Joe Stephens said.

“Phone calls and visits are listened to live in English.

A day in the prison starts at 8am where officers undergo briefings related to security issues or intelligence problems.

Officers then conduct head checks at 8.30am and prisoners can make bookings, whether it be using the exercise yard or making a phone call.

Every 28 days the men are moved to different cells to ensure they aren’t around the same prisoners.

Governor of Goulburn Correctional Wayne Taylor said Area 1 is dealing with the “worst of the worst” and it would take an “extraordinary person” to escape from Supermax.

“It’s the most secure facility in the nation, even in the southern hemisphere.”

“These people are a danger to society and a danger to other prisoners because of the radicalisation.”

Once inmates have proven they are capable of further rehabilitation, they can be moved to Area 2 which involves more interaction with other people.

The opening of the newly-refurbished area officially took place on Monday, showcasing the upgrades to the electronic security, the hi-tech X-ray machine and walk-through metal detectors.

Minimum-security prisoners put a massive 15,650 hours towards the building, helping with the construction of the walls, ceilings and painting in the new Supermax.

Mr Corcoran said the new units provide “greater options to manage terrorists safely, securely and efficiently”.

“The Supermax opened in September 2001, which was the same month the world was shown a new type of offender,” he said.

“This will house those of high risk and with extremist ideologies.”

“This Supermax is bigger and better.”

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