Prison escapee avoids police net
AN urgent review will be undertaken following the brazen daylight escape of a Risdon Prison inmate amid damning revelations about the "outdated" and "substandard" facility.
The man charged with overseeing prison conditions, custodial inspector Richard Connock, has raised significant concerns about the Ron Barwick Minimum Security Prison where prisoner Graham John Enniss broke out of at 8.30am today.
Enniss, 38 of Smithton, who was imprisoned for eight years in 2016 after firing gunshots at police during a manhunt, remained on the run late on Monday night following a full day of searching.
Enniss, who slipped past prison officers prompting a land and air search throughout Monday, did so by "accessing the roof of a building at the prison" and "clearing a boundary fence".
He is described as 180cm tall, of solid to muscular build and about 100kg. He is believed to be clean shaven and has the word "thug" tattooed on his neck.
Acting Southern District Commander Jason Elmer said Enniss's escape was done so alongside an accomplice who prison officers were able to apprehend.
When asked how dangerous the escapee is, Mr Elmer said: "We know Enniss is serving quite a substantial prison term for a number of instances on the North-West Coast a number of years ago. Clearly we would encourage people to not approach him and if they do come into contact with him, to contact police immediately."
Risdon Prison was in lockdown on Monday afternoon preventing prisoners from attending scheduled court appearances.
It is understood Risdon Vale Primary School and a number of Eastern Shore schools were also in lockdown over Monday morning and into the afternoon.
Tasmania Police would not reveal how the roof Enniss used to escape could be accessed or how someone was able to clear the fence.
"We won't be releasing the exact location for operational/security reasons," a police spokeswoman said.
"There is no information to suggest Enniss was armed at the time of his escape."
Minister for Corrections Elise Archer said she had met with her department and received a full briefing with an immediate investigation "underway".
"I have also requested an immediate review of the prisoner classification system," she said.
"Community safety is a key priority … and any escape is completely unacceptable."
A Department of Justice spokesman confirmed a review was underway and that prior to Monday's incident the last escape from the Ron Barwick Minimum Security Prison occurred in September 2015.
"No escape from custody is acceptable," the spokesman said.
"Any improvements to systems and processes that emerge from this review will be considered."
In 2015 Enniss was the subject of a manhunt involving multiple police officers after he shot at Police in Tasmania's North West while on the run from police.
In 2010 he pleaded guilty to attempting to escape from custody and to two charges of assault for which he was sentenced to eight months' imprisonment.
The escape follows another incident at the prison on September 3 when two prisoners climbed onto a roof of the complex - an incident a Justice Department spokesman said "was not an escape attempt".
That incident came just days after another prisoner fled police custody at the Royal Hobart Hospital and remained at large for 12 days before he was found in a house where a gun was uncovered.
A 2017-18 inspection report into prison standards at the Risdon Prison complex by Mr Connock found the Ron Barwick minimum security facility was "outdated" and "substandard".
"Tasmania Prison Services funding for infrastructure is an issue. The outdated, substandard facilities, in particular the Ron Barwick Minimum Security Prison … were addressed in the 2016/17 report. The apparent lack of funding for maintenance and equipment replacement potentially contributes to lower staff morale and escalation of prisoner discontent," the ombudsman report read.
Mr Connock said this year's inspection reports have not yet been published but confirm that issues with staffing shortages create pressures for staff resulting in increased overtime work "and a generally fatigued workforce".
Labor Corrections spokeswoman Ella Haddad said Monday's escape demonstrated the Government was "failing" to keep Tasmanians safe.
"The Liberals like to talk tough on crime but after another prisoner is on the run, the community is rightly asking why this keeps happening," Ms Haddad said.
"Hardworking staff at our prisons are crying out for more support from the Government but it seems like the situation will only be getting worse.
"Tasmanians deserve to be safe in their community."