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Police move in after siege ends
POLICE have moved into Hobart's Risdon Prison following the end of a tense, two-day siege at the maximum security jail.

The 41-hour stand-off ended peacefully about 8am (AEST) when the last prisoner walked out of the jail's damaged reception area.

A full forensic examination is now under way and the prison will remain locked down today.

The siege wrapped up after a breakthrough overnight when warder Ken Henner was released by inmates unharmed.

Several prisoners were also held hostage in the stand-off, which began about 2.45pm (AEST) on Saturday when inmates took over the jail's reception area, demanding the resignations of prisons chief Graeme Barber and Tasmanian Attorney-General Judy Jackson.

Windows were broken, furniture smashed and prison records burnt, but no one was physically harmed, Mr Barber said today.

The trouble followed months of violence and unrest at Risdon.

Negotiations between inmates and police centred on complaints about the day- to-day running of the ageing facility in Hobart's outer east.

Prisoners say conditions are substandard and prisoners are regularly being mistreated.

Mr Barber admitted Risdon prison is not up to current maximum security standards, but authorities say it is to be replaced by a new jail.

"It's the good will of the inmates and the custodial staff, who operate in there on a daily basis, that keeps this place running," he said.

Mr Barber said the release of Mr Henner last night had been an enormous relief.

"It has been a traumatic time for all staff at the prison and I congratulate them on the exceptional way they have handled this incident and the pressure," he said.

The area has been secured and handed over to Tasmania Police as a crime scene for a full forensic examination.

The prison will remain locked down today as authorities assess the damage and begin making repairs.

Prison Action and Reform Group president Caroline Dean said she hoped the end of the stand-off would usher in a new era at the ageing and crowded prison.

"We're very relieved and pleased that it's over and ended peacefully," she said.

"We hope this heralds a new time in the prison from an autocratic, punitive system to a democratic rehabilitative system."

Risdon Prison's infamous past
Despite its relatively short history, Tasmania's Risdon Prison has become one of Australia's most notorious jails.

Not only is it known for housing many infamous inmates, including Port Arthur killer Martin Bryant and criminal-turned-celebrity Mark "Chopper" Read, the 280 bed jail came under fire in 1999 after the suicide deaths of several men over four months.

When the prison was opened in 1960, it was hailed as a state-of-the-art facility.

Built with an open-air rectangular design, there was no external wall and prisoners lived in single occupancy cells with toilets and hand basins, heating and access to local radio stations.

A new wall was erected soon after its completion following escapes by prisoners.

The capacity of the prison was increased during construction, but the new plans did not allow for larger facilities such as workshops and recreation space.

Seven years after it opened, the workshop complex was almost destroyed by a fire started by prisoners and it took three years to rebuild - with most work done by the inmates.

In 1997, Martin Bryant became the prison's most notorious inmate, condemned to spend the rest of his life there for killing 35 people at Port Arthur in 1996.

Other infamous inmates include Read, former international cricket umpire and convicted child molester Steve Randell and Tasmania's longest- serving prisoner, child killer James O'Neill.

Conditions within the maximum/medium security prison have been an ongoing issue.

In 1999, five men, three with known psychiatric illnesses, were found dead in their cells. Four had been hanged, the other died of undetermined causes.

At the time, lawyer Simon Copper said Risdon was "cages within yards" and "concrete, steel, floors washed away by repeated scrubbing so they are down to the stone".

The suicides prompted an inquiry by the Tasmanian Ombudsman and a Deaths in Custody inquest by the state coroner.

Both inquiries were critical of the state Labor government and prison management practices.

The Tasmanian government has since announced a $90 million redevelopment of the jail, including three more medium security units housing 84 prisoners in 12 separate units.

The redevelopment, due for completion next year, will also include a workshop with rehabilitation facilities, while the existing facility will be redeveloped as a minimum security jail.

Ex-prisoner tells of maggots in food
Author: CATHY ALEXANDER

SOME prison meals have contained maggots, a former prisoner claims.

Annette McCoy said she was moved to join a protest held outside the prison yesterday because conditions inside were so bad.

The protest, co-ordinated by lobby group Prison Action and Reform, was sparked by inmates who staged a siege in the prison's reception area, calling for better treatment.

Ms McCoy, who served two months in Risdon last year for drink-driving offences, said there had been maggots in the spaghetti bolognaise.

Sick inmates had to wait days to see a doctor and prisoners had to use the toilet in full view of their cell-mates, she said.

"It's embarrassing, you're treated like dirt."

Ms McCoy said the biggest problem inside Risdon was boredom, with inmates spending most of the time locked down in their cells.

"There's no jobs for anyone, no courses, no nothing.

"All you do is smoke and drink coffee all day."

She urged the Government to provide more funding for rehabilitation and education programs, saying boredom was driving prisoners to bad behaviour.

Ms McCoy agreed with the hostage-takers that prison food was not acceptable.

The diet was mainly salad and chips.

"I thought in the end I was going to look like a chip," she said.

About 50 people took part in yesterday's rally.

The group, waving placards, marched up to a police blockade and installed themselves on couches by the side of the road.

Behold the power of pizza
By HEATHER LOW CHOY - 10may05

PIZZA-shop proprietor Mario Di Ienno was ecstatic yesterday when he realised Risdon Prison inmates had traded their key hostage for 15 of his pizzas.

Prisons director Graeme Barber revealed yesterday it was the delivery of 15 pizzas that sealed prison officer Ken Hannah's release.

"Oh my God, I can't believe this. I'm so happy. I'm rapt. My pizza might have helped save a man's life," said Mr Di Ienno, who owns La Bella Pizza & Pasta takeaways in Sandy Bay and Hobart.

He said he knew a police officer collected 15 pizzas from his Sandy Bay shop late on Sunday night to take to Risdon Prison.

"I didn't know exactly what they were doing with the pizzas but now I know I've got to warn the prison about what may happen next," Mr Di Ienno said.

"We make a bloody good pizza and the prisoners who ate them will want more because they're so nice. A problem may arise because of this. I'm serious."

It is not the first time police have used Mr Di Ienno's pizza in a siege situation.

The pizza-shop proprietor's burgeoning empire includes Mario's Express Pizza at New Norfolk.

During a siege at New Norfolk in March that also ended peacefully, Mario's made more than 70 pizzas for police, Mr Di Ienno said.

Mr Di Ienno said he would consider adding a "siege breaker" pizza to his menu.

"I tell you what, that's not a bad idea," he said.

Mick Cloak, who co-owns La Bella's Murray St shop, said he thought an inmate phoned in the order.

Mr Di Ienno said the prisoners' order also included six bottles of Coke.

Prison management denied inmates' initial demand for pizza on Sunday night.

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