Over crowded, understaffed prisons increase likelihood of violence and sexual assault

Hon Alison Xamon MLC, Greens spokesperson for Corrective Services, has today renewed her call on the McGowan Government to get serious about addressing prison numbers as recent questions in Parliament revealed sexual assaults in WA prisons have increased almost threefold in the last 12 months.

Ms Xamon said that the increase, from eight sexual assaults in 2017-18 to 21 already this financial year, painted a very worrying picture of life inside our correctional facilities.

“Particularly concerning are results from Hakea prison, which jumped from two sexual assaults last year to six this year. This comes on top of a recent damning report by the Inspector of Custodial Services about the prison, and the death last month of a prisoner after being brutally bashed in his Hakea cell,” said Ms Xamon.

Recently released figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics demonstrate that not only are overall prisoner numbers in Western Australia increasing, the rate of imprisonment has also increased from 340 prisoners per 100,000 in 2017 to 344 prisoners per 100,000 population in 2018[1].

“This situation is clearly unsustainable,” said Ms Xamon.

“The more overcrowded and understaffed our prisons are, the more difficult it is to keep prisoners and staff safe, and the more difficult it is to meet prisoner’s health, mental health and rehabilitation needs”.

Ms Xamon said that the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed that three out of five Western Australian prisoners had been imprisoned before.

“As this data clearly shows, the WA prison systems continues to fail to successfully rehabilitate prisoners and to curb reoffending,” said Ms Xamon.

“WA has the highest rate of Aboriginal imprisonment after the Northern Territory. If our prisons are not effective or efficient deterrents, and they are not successful in rehabilitating people, why purpose does locking up more people serve?”

[1] http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4517.0~2018~Main%20Features~Western%20Australia~25

picture of barbed wire fence