Questions raised about government spending on work camps

Monday 13 Apr 2015

The WA Prison Officers’ Union said a new report raised serious questions about whether the State Government had misspent taxpayers’ money building work camps instead of alleviating prison overcrowding.

The report, by the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services, has found the government has spent a total of $40 million on new work camps, many of which are only half full.

However, an analysis by the union today showed that some work camps were as little as 21% full. Warburton currently has 5 prisoners; it’s designed for 24.

The report found that some of the work camps were ‘at risk of becoming white elephants’ and questioned whether building them was based on flawed planning.

“Spending $40 million on work camps that are now less than half full is a gross waste of taxpayers’ money, when the rest of our prisons are so overcrowded,” said WAPOU Secretary John Welch.

“The government is supposed to plan for the future, yet it has spent all this money on under-utilised facilities when just about every other prison is bursting at the seams.”

Mr Welch said the union supported the concept of work camps to allow prisoners to be close to the communities they come from and to do reparation work in the communities.

However, he questioned whether the government had got its spending priorities right.

“The government has spent $40 million on half-empty work camps and at the same time, the Economic Regulation Authority recently found that Bandyup women’s prison was so overcrowded that prisoners were sleeping on mattresses on the floor,” he said.

“It seems to us that something is drastically wrong with the government’s priorities and planning.”