Tough new burglary laws set to worsen prison overcrowding

Monday 02 Nov 2015

The WA Prison Officers’ Union is concerned the State Government’s new home burglary laws will put even more pressure on an already overcrowded prison system.

The laws, which came into effect on the weekend, will tighten the state’s “three strikes” laws, meaning offenders convicted of burglaries on three separate days will receive a mandatory jail term.

The Corrective Services Commissioner has previously estimated the laws could put an extra 206 adults and 60 juveniles behind bars within four years, at a cost of about $93 million.

“It’s all very well passing new laws that are going to put more people behind bars, but you have to be able to house those extra prisoners,” said WAPOU Secretary John Welch.

“WA’s prisons are already well above capacity. Last week, we had record levels of more than 5,700 prisoners in a system designed to hold around 4,100, and this new legislation is just going to make things worse.

“If the government is going to continue to lock people up at an increasing rate, then it needs to open more prison cells and hire more staff.”

Mr Welch said the prison population was already growing by about 7.4% a year, and this was likely to increase under the new laws.

“The government will say it is adding extra capacity to the system, and it is, but the new Eastern Goldfields prison is already months behind schedule,” he said.

“The current overcrowding problems are already creating an unsafe workplace for Prison Officers, and we are concerned the situation is only going to get worse.

“Just last week, some prisons were operating up to 30 staff short and there were several serious incidents, including prisoners climbing on the roof in two separate prisons.

“We are concerned that if you try and squeeze more prisoners into an already overcrowded system, violent incidents will increase, and our members will bear the brunt of it.”