A HUNTER minimum security jail's housing requires urgent repair and security upgrades, an assessment of the facility has concluded.
The NSW Inspector of Custodial Services on Friday released a report on its inspection of Muswellbrook's St Heliers Correctional Centre conducted last December.
Hailing the programs on offer at the site, which include an Indigenous focus, the report was less complimentary about the state of the centre itself.
"The accommodation areas were aged and in need or urgent repair or maintenance and security upgrades," the report notes.
It was the first inspection at St Heliers since 2017, when the office noted that the state's minimum security prisons in regional areas "often play a valued role ... contributing to the local economy and engaging with local services and communities".
Five years on, inspectors found a difficulty in accessing psychological services persisted for inmates.
"The implementation of a mobile psychology team was intended to address this issue, however access to psychological services remained limited or not available due to staffing issues," the report notes, adding that staff shortages meant the mobile service stopped covering St Heliers in March this year.
"This is something that should be addressed by Corrective Services NSW (CSNSW) as soon as possible."
Other recommendations include that the prison begin self-catering for meals and that its Gundi program, designed as a direct pathway to employment and work release for Indigenous inmates, be developed further.
"However, we also became aware of a number of barriers impacting the success of the [Gundi] program, including the number of Aboriginal men being placed at St Heliers, and the inability to identify suitable Aboriginal men to transfer to St Heliers," the report notes.
"This was perplexing given Aboriginal men make up over 27 per cent of the sentenced population in NSW and St Heliers is the only location offering a cultural program for Aboriginal men that includes work release opportunities."
80 per cent of inmates at the time of inspection were non-Indigenous.
A Corrective Services NSW spokesman said the centre was "working through outstanding maintenance following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions".
"Upgrades to accommodation units are currently being planned while construction of a cultural space and upgrades to segregation cells will continue to progress into the new year," he said.
"Secure in-cell tablets were rolled out at the centre in November 2022, providing inmates with access to a range of rehabilitative, education and entertainment services."