Funding needed in budget to expand overcrowded prison system

Tuesday 05 May 2015

The WA Prison Officers’ Union has called on the State Government to allocate money in the upcoming budget to expand WA’s chronically overcrowded prison system.

The number of prisoners exceeded 5,500 for the first time last month, putting immense pressure on the system and the staff working in it.

WAPOU State Secretary John Welch said the government was not building new cells fast enough to cater for the increase in prisoners.

“What we want to see in this state budget is a commitment to increasing the capacity of our prison system, which is currently packed to the rafters,” he said.

“The overcrowding increases the potential for violent incidents which are a direct threat to the safety of our members.”

Mr Welch said despite reports by the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services and the Economic Regulation Authority, the government refused to admit there even was an overcrowding problem.

“The Department used to calculate the design capacity of each prison, that is, the number of prisoners it was designed to hold,” he said.

“But when that number got too high and the prisons were obviously becoming seriously overcrowded, all of a sudden they changed the way they counted a prison’s capacity and overnight the overcrowding problem disappeared.

“What we want the government to do is stop trying to be tricky with the numbers and just build more cells to accommodate the extra prisoners that its so called ‘tough on crime’ policies have created.

“Instead, this government just keeps cramming more people into the existing cells and that is putting our members in danger.”