WA Prisons need faster action on Covid-19 to avoid mass outbreak

Friday 13 Mar 2020

The WA Prison Officers’ Union (WAPOU) warns a COVID-19 outbreak in WA prisons could wreak havoc on the already struggling system. The first prisoner claiming to have coronavirus was transported to Hakea Prison yesterday where he remains in isolation.

Officers were required to escort the prisoner to a cell and although staff took sensible measures to keep safe, there was no formal protocols or instructions in place to deal with a COVID-19 situation.

WA Prison Officers’ Union Secretary Andy Smith said if the COVID-19 was to spread in one of WA’s jails it would wreak havoc not only on the system but to the broader community.

“The government should be doing everything it can to keep this virus away from the jail system, not only for the safety of our members but for the safety of their families and the community,” he said. “The prison population is already at an all-time high, so a spread is likely if we don’t have proper protocols and resources in place to deal with it.

“Staffing shortages are a major issue in most of our prisons and if prison officers are forced to isolate or become ill from contracting the virus, it could become impossible to run a prison safely.

“There needs to be clear education and direction to staff to protect the wellbeing of prison officers and the wellbeing of their loved ones who they go home to.

“The department needs to ensure prisons are equipped with enough PPE gear and masks in case of a mass outbreak of the COVID-19. “I met with prison authorities this morning to discuss what will be implemented in our prisons, unfortunately it is not happening soon enough and we need to respond now to make sure this virus doesn’t enter our prison systems,” Mr Smith said.