A sea of demonstrators sparked a riot at the Metropolitan Remand Center in Ravenhall, Melbourne’s maximum security prison. Armed police and reinforcements were called to stifle the demonstrations.
A police helicopter and an armed vehicle were at the scene to monitor the yard.
According to ABC, about 300 prisoners participated in the demonstrations, the police said. The prisoners, who had their faces covered, were carrying sticks and slamming the doors at the prison.
“A group of prisoners breached a secure inner perimeter of the Metropolitan Remand Centre,” Corrections Victoria said.
A spokesperson for Corrections Victoria said, “Parts of the prison have been locked down and Corrections Victoria is working with Victoria Police to contain the situation. Police have secured the perimeter of the prison. There is no threat to public safety.”
Smoke could be seen rising from behind the prison walls. The demonstrators were contained within the premises and the staff was evacuated.
Police had placed some parts of the prison on lockdown as a precaution. The outer perimeter of the premises was secured. While there have been no injuries reported by the prison staff, Ambulance Victoria teams are present outside the facility.
Fences that separated rival biker gangs inside the prison grounds were taken down, Fairfax radio station 3AW reports.
The rioting began as a result of a cigarette ban that was issued and was to be implemented in all Victoria prisons. Not being able to purchase tobacco has created an environment of unrest within the prison facility. Some prisoners have not been able to buy tobacco since a past few weeks.
According to The Guardian, Simon Chapman, a tobacco researcher and professor of public health at the University of Sydney, challenged the latest move.
He said, “There’s no evidence that it’s harmful to anyone but the smoker in wide open spaces, so my view is smoking ought to be allowed in open areas.”
He highlighted that while smoking bans in certain prisons across the world were implemented successfully, in other cases they were met with resistance and unrest.
“In some prisons, it has been said to have worked well, and in other prisons there have been reports of difficulties, similar to the one described unfolding in Melbourne,” he said.
In 2012, a riot instigated by five prisoners at a remand center resulted in $300,000 in damages, The Age reports. The culprits had breached an interior perimeter, and smashed security cameras and windows.
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