Overcrowding forces prisoners to sleep on the floor

The WA Prison Officers’ Union has raised concerns about prisoners at Bandyup women’s prison being forced to sleep on the floor because the facility is so overcrowded.

The Union said that prisoners often had to sleep on the floor of cells which were already above capacity.

“The cells at Bandyup were originally built to house one person,” said WAPOU Secretary John Welch.

“But as prisoner numbers escalated, the government decided to squeeze two prisoners into each cell by installing bunk beds or by making prisoners sleep on the floor.

“Now, we’ve got a situation where two women are being crammed into a cell built for one.”

“You might expect those type of conditions in third world countries, but it’s not acceptable here.”

Mr Welch said the design capacity of Bandyup is 218, but it’s now overflowing with approximately 286 inmates.

He said overcrowding led to serious safety issues in prisons.

“When you have two or three prisoners crammed into a room built for one, it’s a recipe for disaster,” he said.

“We are very concerned about violence breaking out, which our members have to deal with.

“Overcrowding puts the safety of both prisoners and staff at risk and the government needs to address this problem before a serious incident occurs.”

Mr Welch said the government should be addressing the overcrowding issue rather than pursuing draconian legislation that takes away prison officers’ rights.

The Prison Officers’ Discipline Bill, which has been introduced into parliament, will see Prison Officers lose the presumption of innocence when accused of wrongdoing at work.

“While we support reform to clean up WA prisons, we believe Minister Francis should spend less time pursuing measures to take away Prison Officers’ rights and more time making sure our prisons are properly staffed and resourced,” said Mr Welch.

“We think overcrowding is one of the most serious issues in WA’s prison system and the government seems to have no real plans to address the situation”.