Concern as WA’s prison population reaches record high

WA prisoner numbers continue to spiral out of control, with revelations the prison muster has exceeded 6,500 for the first time.

The WA Prison Officers’ Union said overcrowding was getting worse, as the prisoner population continued to increase at an alarming rate.

“Recent figures from the Productivity Commission showed WA has some of the highest incarceration rates in the country,” said WAPOU secretary John Welch.

“We are trying to cram more than 6,500 people into our prisons, when the system is only designed to hold around 4,500.

“A recent report by the Inspector of Custodial Services found that as of June 2016, our prisons were operating at 148% of their design capacity, and the situation is only getting worse.”

The prison muster showed that two of the state’s biggest prisons were severely overcrowded, with Casuarina at 934 prisoners, despite it being designed to hold about 525 prisoners and Hakea currently at 1002, when it was designed to hold around 625.

Mr Welch said the government had failed to adequately plan for WA’s burgeoning prison population, despite warnings from both the union and the Inspector of Custodial Services.

“WA is in dire need of a new prison, but the government has not done any of the necessary forward planning or budgeting to ensure we get one,” he said.

“The paltry $1.2 million the government has put aside for planning is a drop in the ocean, and they can’t build a new prison fast enough to help ease the current pressure on the system.

“Even if planning started today, a new prison would still be 3-5 years away, and that does nothing to help the current crises.”