Locks changed at Parklea Jail after keys stolen by released inmate

An inmate allegedly stole a set of jail keys as he was being released from a Sydney prison, in an embarrassing security bungle which led to a number of locks having to be changed.

Police were yesterday investigating the December 22 incident at the privately-run Parklea Correctional Centre.

The inmate is alleged to have taken the keys from a staff area as he was being processed for release before walking past guards with them.

Public Service Association Prison Officers branch chairman Steve McMahon slammed the incident as a “rookie mistake” which could cost the state thousands of dollars in replacement locks.

Opposition spokesman Guy Zangari said Corrective Services Minister David ­Elliott had “an obligation to inform the public that there has been a security breach”.

“There’s a possibility there that there could be a breakout,” Mr Zangari said.

“The fact is it’s a security breach and it is of a great concern to the local community and wider community if a key goes missing in any facility.”

Mr Elliott declined to comment yesterday.

It is understood prison management did not realise the keys were missing until the next day and 28 locks had to be changed.

It is also understood it was a nurse who had left the keys, which also allow access to the prison clinic area, unattended.

A Corrective Services spokeswoman yesterday said the department and private operator GEO were “investigating security measures including key control and management processes within the centre”.

The spokeswoman said police were notified as soon as possible, adding: “None of the keys provide access to the prison or to inmate areas inside such as cells or yards. A small number of affected locks elsewhere in the centre have been replaced or secured with padlocks.”

Mr Zangari warned prisons risked becoming revolving doors if they couldn’t secure keys. “You simply can’t just pick up a bunch of keys in a prison facility and take off with them,” he said.

“Irrespective of who the prisoner is, a prisoner is a prisoner and should not, must not have ­access to keys. Otherwise, prison facilities become a revolving door.

“This is day four of the new year and we have had prison assaults, murder, riots and now keys go missing. Where does it end?”

Mr McMahon questioned how such a mistake could occur. “It’s drummed into prison officers from day one that the keys are to remain on their person attached to a lanyard on their belt,” he said.

“The reality is that changing those locks could have cost thousands of dollars and that is probably borne by the state and not the contractor. It’s a monumental mistake.”