Out-of-hours court sittings: a stretch on prison resources?

Sunday 17 Feb 2013

The Liberal Party’s promise to fund out-of-hours court sittings does not explain how it will pay for additional prison officers to deal with any extra burden on the prison system, the WA Prison Officers’ Union said today.

If the purpose of the additional sittings was to deal with offenders more quickly, the Liberals also need a plan to manage the extra prisoners arriving out of hours, said WAPOU Secretary John Welch.

“We don’t take a position on the merit of out-of-hours sittings; but the Liberal Party has not explained the impact of this proposal on numbers of prisoners coming into prison after hours and how they will be handled,” said Mr Welch.

“If we are going to see a spike in prisoner admissions at night and on the weekend – and also potentially a rise in overall prison numbers – we are going to need the prison officers on the ground to deal with that.

“WA prisons currently operate on much-reduced staff numbers after hours. Where is the funding for the additional prison officers to deliver on this promise?”

The Liberal Party can run on a law and order platform but it needs to explain how the state’s already over-stretched prisons will cope with its new proposals, said Mr Welch.

“Today’s announcement follows the promise of mandatory sentencing for home invasions. Between mandatory sentencing and weekend court sittings, we need to know how many more prisoners they believe will be sent to jail and how many more people will be received after hours?

“The Liberal Party needs an answer for this; and then a plan to fund staffing levels to keep prisoners and prison officers safe.”