Private prison ‘barely a jail’, says murderer
A convicted murderer and accused rapist has described Mount Gambier Prison as barely like being in jail at all with the freedom to lift weights, cook desserts and have intimate visits from his girlfriend.
James Hall, 33, took the stand on Friday to defend allegations that he raped a female prison officer in 2017 when he was being held at the privately-run jail in SA's South-East.
Hall was 12 years into a 22-year-minimum non-parole period for murder when the incident allegedly occurred.
He is standing trial before judge alone in the District Court.
He had been transferred to Mount Gambier Prison after spending the first ten years of his sentence in Adelaide Remand Centre, Yatala Labor Prison and Port Augusta Prison.
Hall told District Court Judge Gordon Barrett that he had struggled to adjust from the strict prison regimes of the state-run jails.
"I was used to being told what to do, in the other jails you do what the officers say to do," he said.
"There was no real regime in Mount Gambier, you were just allowed to go about your day.
"It was all a bit much at first until I got a routine established."
Hall described the prison, which houses the medium-security prisoners and a large proportion of sex offenders, as being more like a bootcamp than a jail.
"It wasn't a jail," he said. "Everyone spoke about it as not being a jail, you had your own regime. There is no comparison, I wouldn't call it a prison."
While in Mount Gambier Prison, Hall worked as a dessert chef in the jail kitchen where he said he was looking to expand his cooking knowledge.
Hall said he had intimate visits with his girlfriend, the daughter of a fellow inmate in Port Augusta Prison, once a fortnight.
He told the court he was able to do "whatever I wanted" with his girlfriend in a secluded area of the prison yard known to prisoners as "the naughty corner".
"We had almost two hours to ourselves to do whatever we wanted," Hall said.
At any time there might be two or three couples in the "naughty corner", Hall said, with guards only occasionally checking what was going on.
Hall also told the court he had phone sex "at least once a week" with his partner.
The court heard that Hall spent 28 days in cell block 17 as punishment for getting his girlfriend's name tattooed down the side of his neck.
In 2017, when the rape was alleged to have occurred, Hall was taking with lawyers about launching an appeal against the length of his non-parole period.
Whether that appeal was ever brought before the courts was not established during Hall's testimony.
Hall has been back in the high-security wing of Yatala Labor Prison since being charged with rape three years ago.
The trial continues.
Originally published as Private prison 'barely a jail', says murderer