Special investigation into relationships behind bars
Special investigation into relationships behind bars

Prison sex probe’s explosive revelations

An explosive investigation has revealed scores of improper relationships including sex behind bars between prisoners and guards in the state's jails.

More than 320 cases over the past 10 years were referred to a task force headed by former counter-terrorism boss Mark Murdoch, who discovered that 14 involved sexual relationships and another 60 where the interaction was intimate or involved other breaches of policy.

The damning report found relationships between prisoners and prison officers was "widespread" with women falling into the arms of prisoners after cruel bullying by their male colleagues, according to a source.

Senior prison officer Amy Connors heading to court to face allegations of an affair with cop-killer Sione Penisini at Kempsey Maximum Security Prison. Picture: Ashleigh Gleeson
Senior prison officer Amy Connors heading to court to face allegations of an affair with cop-killer Sione Penisini at Kempsey Maximum Security Prison. Picture: Ashleigh Gleeson

"The prisoners see how badly the women guards are treated and exploit it," the source said.

Task Force Themis was prompted by the arrest last year of Amy Connors, 34, a married mother-of-two who, according to court documents, had a 12-month sexual relationship with jailed cop killer Sione Penisini at Kempsey Correctional Centre.

Connors, a 14-year veteran prison guard, is due to be sentenced at Kempsey Local Court on December 2 after pleading guilty to misconduct in public office.

The task force found, contrary to popular belief that young vulnerable guards were more at danger, that staff from all levels of experience and length of service can be "susceptible" and that most who succumbed were likely to be aged 40 to 50 years old.

Sione Penisini being led away from court after being charged with the murder of policeman Glenn McEnallay in 2002. Picture: Mick Tsikas.
Sione Penisini being led away from court after being charged with the murder of policeman Glenn McEnallay in 2002. Picture: Mick Tsikas.

Tough new laws passed last year to make it a criminal offence to have an intimate relationship with an inmate led to two female guards and two male guards being charged with "engaging in relationship with inmate cause safety risk to correctional centre".

Part-time bikini model Tara Brooks, 33, was found guilty but without a conviction recorded after pleading guilty to one count of engaging in a non-sexual relationship with drug dealer Hassan Zreika, 41, at Parklea Correctional Centre between December 2018 and February this year.

She was given a two-year conditional release order.

Tara Brooks (left) leaving Parramatta District Court earlier this month. Picture: Damian Shaw
Tara Brooks (left) leaving Parramatta District Court earlier this month. Picture: Damian Shaw

In the District Court last week, acting Judge Norman Delaney said responsibility fell on those working in prisons to uphold the rules: "That is the job they have been employed to do."

Prison guard Colin Kelleher, 34, pleaded guilty at Moss Vale Local Court to pursuing a romantic relationship with Berrima jail inmate Kim Quach and giving her information on how to manipulate the system to reduce her level of classification.

Former jail boss John Heffernan blamed the relationships on "case management" where prison officers are supposed to interact with prisoners.

"It gives them an excuse to get close," said Mr Heffernan, the former governor of Grafton Jail in northern NSW.


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