By Danny Rose - 08may05
TASMANIA'S prisons director Graeme Barber today rejected claims that inmates holding a warder hostage at Risdon prison had threatened to cut off his fingers.
Mr Barber today said "no threats have been made against his personal safety at any stage during negotiations".
He also said he was confident the siege could be peacefully resolved.
"I don't think this will stretch on for days," he told reporters outside the maximum security prison.
Former inmate Tony Bull, who has been in mobile phone contact with the hostage takers, yesterday said they were losing patience after food was not delivered to them.
"At the moment, the officer's hand is on the table," Mr Bull said last night.
"I'd say he's not far from losing a finger - they're very upset at the moment."
Mr Barber said the 20 inmates, holed up in the prison's reception area, had made some new demands today, but he would not say what they were.
He conceded conditions in the prison could be improved, but said the Tasmanian Government had committed $90 million to build a new jail which would open in July next year.
As part of earlier demands the prisoners called for Mr Barber's resignation, but he ruled that out, saying he had recently signed a five-year contract as prisons director.
Meanwhile, the Prison Action and Reform group, members of which are outside the jail, called for police negotiators to treat the inmates reasonably and seriously.
President Caroline Dean said the apparent arrival of crack Special Operations Group police could inflame the situation.
"The SOG arrived last night... my fear is if they push these guys too far, it is going to end badly," she said.
Mr Barber said there were 20 prisoners and one warden involved in the siege.
But Ms Dean said eight of the prisoners were being held against their will by other inmates.
She said she had contact with the prisoners up until last night when communications were cut.
Mr Barber, while not confirming the presence of SOG police, said they had "specialist" advice and support at the scene.
A stream of police cars and other vehicles this morning entered the prison grounds.
Police have been turning away families who have been arriving at the prison for Mothers' Day visits today.