ERA report highlights urgent need for action at Bandyup

Thursday 19 Mar 2015

The WA Prison Officers’ Union has called for the State Government to take immediate action to alleviate chronic overcrowding at Bandyup women’s prison, after the Economic Regulation Authority labeled the prison a ‘disgrace’.

The ERA released a discussion paper which confirmed that Bandyup is the most overcrowded prison in the state, with the women’s prison population increasing by 36% since 2009.

The report also points out that despite the male prison population only increasing by about 11%, more than 1500 beds were added to men’s prisons, while only 101 beds were added to women’s prisons between 2009 and 2014.

WAPOU Secretary John Welch said the union had been calling for the situation to be urgently addressed for some time.

“The ERA said during a visit to Bandyup, its staff saw women sleeping on mattresses on the floor with their head next to a toilet,” said Mr Welch.

“Keeping prisoners in these kinds of deplorable conditions increases their likelihood of becoming violent, and that is putting our members at risk.

“Just last week, a female prison officer was bitten by a prisoner and now faces an anxious wait to find out if she has contracted any diseases.”

Mr Welch said the government’s plan to build more units for women at the men’s Hakea prison was going to do nothing to alleviate overcrowding for at least 12 months.

“In the meantime, Bandyup is becoming more and more overcrowded,” he said.

“We already have women sleeping on the floor, how much worse is this situation going to get before the government takes action?”

The ERA report also highlighted the lack of adequate mental health facilities in WA’s prisons, which also increased the safety risk to prison officers.