Claims of a cover-up as Bathurst inmate flees to collect phone and tobacco

CORRECTIONS Minister David Elliott has ordered an investigation into an inmate’s escape from Bathurst Correctional Centre amid state opposition claims of a cover-up.

The minimum security prisoner was taking part in a works program when he allegedly escaped custody on August 26.

It’s claimed he collected contraband – a mobile phone and 52g of tobacco – which was seized by corrective services staff when the inmate returned to the jail.

The matter has been referred to Bathurst police and opposition corrections spokesman Guy Zangari has demanded to know why the inmate has not yet been charged with escaping the jail.

Instead, Mr Zangari said, the incident had been recorded under “contraband” by corrections staff.

Mr Zangari said jail staff saw the inmate running down the street before a member of the public saw him diving through the open rear window of a ute.

“It’s hard to fathom how this was not classified as an escape when an inmate wound up outside of a Correctional Centre legging it down the road,” Mr Zangari said.

“Minister Elliott must explain how the correctional officers supervising the inmates did not notice and report [the inmate’s] departure from the complex. It seems the minister is presiding over yet another embarrassing gaffe under his care.

“Can Minister Elliott explain to us why this was not reported as an escape?”

A spokesperson for Mr Elliott said the minister was also seeking a full explanation.

“The Minister for Corrections has ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident and the way it was reported to Corrective Services NSW,” the spokesperson said.

A Corrective Services NSW spokeswoman confirmed the inmate had fled while on work duty at the jail.

“The inmate was placed in segregation and had his classification regressed from minimum security to medium security,” the spokeswoman said.

“The matter was referred to NSW Police.

“If it is established the inmate was outside centre boundaries, escape charges could be laid by police.”