WAPOU warns of dangerous conditions at women's prison

The current unsafe and dysfunctional conditions at the state’s new women’s prison are highly likely to lead to a serious incident or even death, the WA Prison Officers’ Union has warned.

The Melaleuca facility at Hakea prison opened in December, and is run by international corporation Sodexo, which has no experience managing prisons in Australia.

WAPOU secretary John Welch said the shambolic management practices and dangerous working conditions had already led to two Prison Officers quitting their jobs in recent weeks.

Mr Welch said a recent survey of staff found that 80% of respondents did not feel safe at work.

“Our members are telling us that Sodexo is simply not fit to be running a prison in WA,” he said.

“Many staff are very concerned that the shambolic management practices are putting both theirs and the prisoners’ safety at risk.

“There are grave concerns about inadequate staffing levels, particularly during nightshift, which are dangerously unsafe.

“Two officers have already been forced to quit, only a few months into their new jobs, and we expect more will follow if things don’t improve.”

Mr Welch said staff had detailed a long list of systemic failures due to poor management practices.

“One officer told us there are daily fights between prisoners, but no plans for dealing with those prisoners,” he said.

“We have been told that self-harm is common, but there is no crisis care unit for at-risk prisoners to be placed in and monitored.

“We have repeatedly raised these concerns with the Corrective Services Commissioner, and we hope that both we and the Department can work with the prison management before there is a serious incident.”

Mr Welch said staff had also raised concerns about their level of training, with the survey finding 78% did not feel their training had adequately prepared them for their role.