Government forced to address overcrowding in women's prison

Monday 15 Dec 2014

The WA Prison Officers’ Union said it remained unconvinced that converting part of a male prison to house female prisoners was the best option to alleviate overcrowding.

The State Government has announced it will convert two units at Hakea prison into a stand alone remand prison for women.

The decision comes on the back of a report by the Inspector of Custodial Services, which found that the current Bandyup Women’s Prison was the most ‘complex and challenging’ prison in WA.

The report found that Bandyup also had the highest rate of assaults by prisoners on staff in the state.

“The report highlights the impact on staff who are working in a prison described by the Inspector as ‘crowded, disorganised and rundown,’” said WAPOU Secretary John Welch.

“The Inspector noted that the neglect of Bandyup had been frustrating for staff and that there was ‘very little evidence of proactive head office support.’

“The report also found the ‘past failure to acknowledge the severity of the neglect at Bandyup’ had taken a ‘significant toll’ on staff.”

Mr Welch said the government had been forced to finally announce a plan to address the situation, but it was coming far too late.

“The government was warned that Bandyup was in dire straights back in 2011, but the Inspector has found that ‘virtually no progress’ has been made on his previous recommendations, and the situation has instead deteriorated,” he said.

“While we welcome the government’s announcement that it is taking some action to alleviate overcrowding, we remain concerned about how long it’s going to take.

“In the meantime our members are expected to keep going to work every day in a neglected and deteriorating prison.”

Mr Welch said rather than spending $20 million on housing female prisoners at Hakea, the government should spend the money expanding Bandyup prison.

“We also think it would have been more logical to utilise the private facility at Wandoo,” he said.