Government denials on staff shortage cost the public $700,000

The WA Prison Officers’ Union has welcomed the Corrective Services Commissioner’s commitment to employing more staff in WA’s overcrowded prison system.

Commissioner James McMahon confirmed in budget estimates hearings yesterday that many of the state’s prisons are running up to 20% short of staff.

The Corrective Services Minister has confirmed the State Government will now spend $700,000 on an external contractor to urgently hire 260 new Prison Officers.

WAPOU Secretary John Welch said this was despite the Minister’s repeated denials that the prison system was short staffed.

“We have been warning the government about this staff shortage for well over a year,” said Mr Welch.

“We have repeatedly highlighted the fact that some of the state’s most overcrowded prisons have been running shifts without the required number of staff to operate the prison safely.

“In many cases, prisons have been so short staffed that the only option was to put them in lockdown in order to protect the safety of Prison Officers and the public.

“But despite our repeated warnings, the Minister continually denied we were short staffed.

“Now all of a sudden he’s realised we’re at crisis point and it’s costing the taxpayer $700,000.

“This situation was completely foreseeable, and it’s the government’s poor planning and failure to listen that is now costing the public money.”

Mr Welch said the State Government’s policies had led to the prison population increasing by 13% in the past year.

“The prison system is only designed to hold about 4,200 prisoners, however the population is around 6,225 prisoners, which is a record number,” he said.

“The government is going to have to hire even more Prison Officers if staff numbers are going to keep up with the growth in the prison population.

“We certainly welcome the Commissioner’s candour on this matter and his commitment to do something about it.”