Barnett Government still in denial over WA Prison overcrowding

The WA Prison Officers’ Union has criticised the Minister for Corrective Services, Terry Redman, for again failing to admit that WA’s Prisons are massively overcrowded.

Under questioning today in State Parliament’s Legislative Assembly Estimates Committee, the Minister said WA was lucky to have extra capacity in the prison system allowing the State to take accommodation units offline when old units are being refurbished.

WAPOU Secretary John Welch said the Minister’s latest comments were just plain wrong.

“The fact of the matter is that there are nearly 5000 prisoners currently being held in WA prisons in a system designed to hold about 3500.

“What Government is proposing is that when a new prison unit is opened it closes an old unit down. While they might trumpet the opening of these units the fact remains that they are not putting extra beds in WA’s prisons at a time when the prison population is at record numbers.

The Minister can’t keep denying the fact our prisons are overcrowded when independent experts like the Western Australian Inspector of Custodial Services acknowledge the occupancy rates in WA’s prisons are much higher than capacity.

Mr Welch said it was common knowledge that when prisoners are kept in cramped conditions violence amongst inmates increases.

“You can’t lock two people up in cells designed for one without putting staff and other prisoners at risk. For three years now the State Government has been talking about addressing the overcrowding in the prison system, which the Minister now says doesn’t exist.

“We’ve recently seen some trouble at Acacia Prison and in Victoria’s Barwon Prison we don’t want a serious incident in one of WA’s prisons. The Minister needs to act now before it’s too late,” said Mr Welch.

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