Union rejects ERA's proposed overhaul of Department of Corrective Services

Thursday 09 Jul 2015

The WA Prison Officers’ Union has rejected a recommendation by the Economic Regulation Authority that would result in an expensive bureaucratic overhaul of the Department of Corrective Services.

The proposal is contained in a draft report released today by the ERA into the efficiency of the WA prison system.

One of the report’s main recommendations is that WA should introduce a commissioning model for WA prisons, which would be based on the model in the UK.

Under a commissioning model, the private sector, public sector and not-for-profit organisations would compete for the contracts to deliver prison services.

WAPOU Secretary John Welch said for a commissioning model to be possible, the Department of Corrective Services would have to develop a ‘tendering unit’ to submit commercial tenders, as well as establish an independent probity auditor.

“What the ERA is suggesting is basically splitting the Department, which would be a cumbersome and complicated process,” said Mr Welch.

“This commissioning model has been implemented in the UK and has been a complete failure.

“It hasn’t provided improved quality of services, and following its introduction, there was a 54% increase in assaults on staff over a two-year period and a 67% increase in prisoner suicides over 12 months.

“We believe the introduction of the commissioning model has led to a race to the bottom in terms of cost, which resulted in less staff, increased safety risks, and experienced officers leaving the system because of reduced wages.”

Mr Welch said the ERA’s report showed a misunderstanding of how the prison system worked in WA.

“The ERA admits several times in its report that it doesn’t have enough information to evaluate the real costs of running prisons in WA, yet it’s still making recommendations despite not having the full picture”.

The ERA’s final report is due in November.