Prisoners locked down as prisons run short of staff

The WA Prison Officers’ Union said it was shocking that prisoners at the state’s two largest prisons were on lockdown because there were not enough staff to operate them.

WAPOU Secretary John Welch said Casuarina was 34 prison officers short and Hakea was 20 officers short yesterday, even after all the available staff were called in for overtime shifts.

Mr Welch said that as a result both prisons were on rolling lockdowns, which meant sometimes prisoners were locked in their cells for more than 20 hours a day.

“There is already tension in these prisons due to them being so overcrowded, and now the prisoners are being locked in their cells for extended periods of time,” he said.

“We are very concerned that this could lead to violence between prisoners and potentially against staff.

“It is not good enough that both prisoners and staff are being put at risk due to the government’s poor planning.”

Mr Welch said the union had warned the government months ago that there was a shortage of prison officers in the system.

“That we’ve got to this situation is not a surprise, and it certainly shouldn’t be a surprise to the government because we warned them it was coming,” he said.

The union has called for an extra 200 prison officers to be urgently employed across the state.

“The situation at Casuarina and Hakea may get worse over the weekend,” he said.

“It’s possible we could get to the point where both prisons are locked down for the whole weekend and the prisoners are hardly let out of their cells at all.

“We’re very concerned that if this happens, it will ratchet up the pressure in already chronically overcrowded prisons and that ultimately our members could be put at risk.”

Mr Welch said the latest prison muster figures showed the state’s prison were critically overcrowded and had 30% more prisoners than they were designed to accommodate.

“The government has reacted to the overcrowding issue by cramming more people into cells, and double-bunking prisoners,” he said.

“Now we have a situation where due to staff shortages two prisoners could be locked in the same cell around the clock and that could really spell trouble.”