Union warns Bandyup overcrowding a threat to safety

The WA Prison Officers’ Union is warning that the situation at WA’s main women’s prison is becoming increasingly volatile, as overcrowding hits record levels.

The prison population at Bandyup hit a record 402 prisoners this week, in a prison designed to hold only around 250 prisoners.

The overcrowding has become so severe, female prisoners have been forced to sleep on the floor.

WA Prison Officers’ Union Secretary John Welch said Bandyup had run out of cells, so the only option left was to cram three people into cells originally designed for one.

“The overcrowding at Bandyup is unprecedented, and for the first time, prisoners are being triple-bunked, which means some people are forced to sleep on a mattress on the floor,” he said.

“This is a deplorable situation, and is completely unsustainable.

“Prisons that are this overcrowded become very volatile places, and there is the very real possibility of a major incident breaking out.

“Overcrowding at Albany prison led to a dangerous incident there last week where prisoners set beds on fire and smashed up the day room, and we don’t want to see something like that at Bandyup.

“We are very concerned about the current risk to our members at Bandyup, and unfortunately we don’t see the situation improving any time soon.”

Mr Welch said the union had been warning the government for years that the overcrowding crisis was looming.

“What we’re seeing now is the results of the government’s failure to heed our warnings,” he said.

“Instead of taking action when we first raised this as an issue, the government waited until the situation was almost at crisis point before it took any action.

Work on a 256 bed facility at Hakea men’s prison is finally underway, but those units won’t be available for months.

“In the meantime, the prison population will keep growing and the risk to Prison Officers will keep increasing.”

Mr Welch said the union was also concerned the new units were not going to be ready to open in December as planned.

“The government has chosen a private UK based company as its preferred provider, even though it has no experience operating prisons in WA,” he said.

“We don’t think this company is going to be able to establish its operations in WA in time to manage all the pressures of opening this facility as scheduled.

“Any delay in opening the new prison could push the situation at Bandyup over the edge.”