A lack of psychologists and mental health nurses in Western Australian prisons means the system is failing to adequately address prisoners’ health needs and some of the root causes of offending, Greens spokesperson for Mental Health and Corrective Services Hon Alison Xamon MLC has said.
Ms Xamon said almost half of prison entrants had a mental health issue.
Despite this, she said, there were now fewer psychologists per prisoner in WA prisons than there were in 2014-15.
“On 30 June 2012, there were 4,964 prisoners in Western Australia and, as at the end of the March quarter 2018, that number has grown to 6,818,” Ms Xamon said.
“Despite there now being 1,854 more prisoners than in 2011-12, there is just ONE more psychologist, ONE more prison counsellor and 2.23 more mental health nurses.
Ms Xamon, who revealed the latest figures through questions in Parliament, said the rise in the prison psychologists to prisoner ratio was worrying.
She said while the prison population had increased by 37% since 2011-12, psychological staff numbers had risen just 7%.
“In 2011-12 there was roughly one psychologist to 354 prisoners – in 2018 there is just one psychologist to 442 prisoners,” she said.
“This lack of psychologists and mental health nurses further compounds the ongoing lack of forensic mental health beds in the state,” Ms Xamon said.
“The failure to provide adequate mental health services for prisoners means they are likely to remain in prison for longer and return more frequently.
“There are no long term savings to be made by denying adequate mental health services in our prisons.
“It also fails to make the community any safer.
“The failure to provide adequate mental health services for prisoners means they are likely to remain in prison for longer and return more frequently.”
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. ‘The Health of Australia’s Prisoners 2015’ (Report, 978-1-74249-866-9, 27 Nov 2015)