Assault of prison officers highlights overcrowding in prisons

The WA Prison Officers’ Union says the assault of four prison officers yesterday at Hakea Prison highlights the increasing danger of overcrowded prisons.

A prisoner attacked four officers at Hakea Prison on Saturday.

WAPOU Secretary John Welch said all officers had to leave work following the incident and that it again highlights the high-risk environment the officers are working in.

“This assault is another example of the extremely dangerous job our members do every day, and the increase in prison numbers, coupled with staffing pressures, is not helping their situation,” said Mr Welch.

A recent report showed the prison population in Western Australia has increased by almost a third since the Barnett Government was elected.

The snapshot of the state’s prison system by the Economic Regulation Authority shows that since 2007/08, prisoner numbers have jumped 32.3%. It’s also been revealed that in 2013/14, the prison system housed an average of 5,030 prisoners per day, but the current prison muster is sitting at over 5,400.

“Given the prison system was designed to hold just under 4,000 prisoners, it’s clear that the system is overcrowded,” said Mr Welch.

“The Barnett Government’s policies have directly impacted prisoner numbers and our prisons are now bursting at the seams, which is putting the system under immense pressure.” Mr Welch said the overcrowding in the prison system was creating a dangerous working environment for his members.

“The prison system continues to suffer staffing pressures, and just last Friday, Casuarina Prison was short 30 staff, which required more rolling lockdowns.” he said.

“While the government is recruiting, it needs to be done further, and faster, to deal with these staffing pressures, which are only adding to the difficulties our officers are facing.”

Note: While the prison population has increased by 32.3%, WA’s general population has only increased by 19.5%.