Corrective Services Minister drops the ball on prison management

Saturday 12 Sep 2015

The WA Prison Officers’ Union has accused the Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis of completely dropping the ball in his portfolio, with prisoner numbers soaring and not enough staff to operate prisons safely.

The number of prisoners has hit a new record high, with a total of more that 5,600 people behind bars on Friday in a prison system designed to house just over 4,000.

Many prisons are struggling to cope with the increase, with the Casuarina maximum security prison 30 staff short on Friday for the second time in a week, even after all available extra staff had been called in.

“The prison system is struggling to cope with the ever rising prisoner population, and the Corrective Services Minister has been too slow off the mark to fix the problems,” said WAPOU Secretary John Welch.

“The government has been locking more and more people away, but has been too slow to build new prison cells to accommodate them.

“On top of that, we have a shortage of staff, which we have been warning the Minister about for more than a year, yet he didn’t react swiftly enough to recruit more officers.”

Mr Welch said Casuarina has had to dramatically curtail services and lock down prisoners due to the staff short falls.

Mr Welch said the Corrective Services Minister had taken his eye off the ball.

“Joe Francis has been so focused on pushing through legislation aimed at unfairly punishing prison officers, that he hasn’t noticed that the prison system is struggling in the meantime,” said Mr Welch.

“Mr Francis’ assertion that the new legislation is needed and is somehow going to save taxpayers money by being used to suspend officers without pay is completely ludicrous and ill-informed.

“We believe that very few, if any, of the officers currently on suspension will actually be prosecuted with the new loss of confidence powers that the new legislation provides for.

“Maybe if Joe Francis spent more time concentrating on what was actually going on in his portfolio than going on some witch hunt after prison officers, then the prison system wouldn’t be having the problems that it’s currently having.”