Prison numbers hit new record high

Sunday 12 Apr 2015

WA’s prison system is bursting at the seams, with new figures revealing prisoner numbers have hit another record high.

The prison muster has reached over 5,500 prisoners for the first time, while the system is only designed to hold around 4,500 prisoners.

This week, Hakea’s prison muster was 950 prisoners in a prison designed for 745. Casuarina had 738 prisoners; it’s designed for 525. Bandyup’s prison muster was 327; it’s designed to hold 217.

“The State Government has a ‘tough on crime’ agenda, which is its right, as long as it keeps building cells to accommodate the extra prisoners,” said WA Prison Officers’ Union Secretary John Welch.

“But what this government is doing is trying to cram more and more prisoners into existing cells, which is leading to chronic overcrowding.

“When prisons are overcrowded, prisoners are more likely to become violent and that is putting prison officers at greater and greater risk.”

Mr Welch said at a time when the prison system was suffering from an overcrowding crisis, the Department had decided to clear two units at Hakea, taking another 128 cells out of the system.

“It makes absolutely no sense, when Hakea is bursting at the seams, to effectively close down two units,” said Mr Welch.

“It will make the overcrowding crisis at Hakea worse, and the overflow of prisoners will have to be moved to Acacia, which will worsen the overcrowding there as well.

“We can only guess that this is a cost saving measure, but it is putting our members’ safety at risk and increasing the potential for there to be a major incident at Hakea.”

A recent report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed WA has the second highest imprisonment rate in the country.