Concern as prison population hits 6,000 for the first time

The WA Prison Officers’ Union is concerned for its members’ safety, after the state’s prison population exceeded 6,000 for the first time.

The prison system is designed to hold around 4,200 prisoners, and the State Government has been dealing with the overflow by cramming two prisoners into cells designed for one.

WAPOU Secretary John Welch said the system is not resourced to support such a high number of prisoners.

“The system is chronically overcrowded, and the prison population is growing every day,” he said.

“Casuarina, which houses some of the most difficult prisoners in the state, has reached almost 900 prisoners in a prison designed to hold only 525.

“Having that level of overcrowding in a maximum security prison increases the likelihood of a serious incident, and if one does happen, it will be much harder to manage.”

Mr Welch said he was concerned that the government didn’t have any plans in place to address the problems.

“While its policies are resulting in more and more people being locked up, the solutions the Minister has put forward to increase capacity are months or years away,” he said.

“We know that the Department is working hard to recruit more officers so that it can try to cope with the overcrowding that’s taking place, but it’s going to take at least 6 months until those new recruits are available,” he said.

“WA’s prisons are already bursting at the seams, in 6 months time we will already be at crisis point.”