Riot breaks out in Australian prison on eve of smoking ban

The Metropolitan Remand Centre's canteen stopped selling cigarettes earlier this month, reportedly leading to tensions between those with cigarettes and those without.

By Fred Lambert

MELBOURNE, June 30 (UPI) -- Hundreds of prisoners rioted and set multiple fires on the eve of a smoking ban at a penitentiary on the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia, according to reports.

Heavily armed members of the Victoria Police's Special Operations Group and Tactical Response Unit on Tuesday stormed the Metropolitan Remand Centre, where about 300 prisoners had attacked prison guards, torched vehicles and gained access to a control room.


Officers contained the outer perimeter and used tear gas to repel rioters from the control room, while authorities kept the facility under air surveillance as smoke drifted into the sky.

Authorities were able to douse the fires and get a large number of prisoners under control, but about 100 were still loose within the prison by nightfall as several portions of the facility remained on lockdown, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The violence comes a day before a smoking ban is set to take hold at all 13 prisons in the Australian state of Victoria. The Metropolitan Remand Centre's canteen halted tobacco sales earlier this month, reportedly leading to disparity and tensions among the prisoners with cigarettes and those without.


Victorian Corrections Commissioner Jan Shuard said the ban would go forward as planned, noting she would not speculate about the cause of the riot, one the largest in Melbourne's history, until she was fully debriefed.

"I'm not sure what caused the situation to escalate, but I'm aware of increased tensions because of the smoking ban," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Community and Public Sector Union spokeswoman Catherine Davies as saying.

Davies confirmed that no corrections staff were injured in the riot.

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