Inspector characterises Hakea prison as “overcrowded, over-stretched and over-stressed

Australian Greens

Media Release: Tuesday 2 April 2019

Greens spokesperson for Corrective Services Hon Alison Xamon MLC has today called on the Minister for Corrective Services to urgently address serious concerns identified by the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services (OICS) in its latest report, released today.

The report, which details the findings of the inspection of Hakea Prison undertaken in July and August 2018, characterises the prison as “overcrowded, over-stretched and over-stressed.”

According to the report, in the last 10 years the state prison population has increased from 4,000 to over 6,900, and the number of remand prisoners has increased even faster, growing from 690 to 2,050 (by 200 per cent). As a facility that holds mainly remand prisoners, this increase has had a significant impact on Hakea.

“It is very disappointing to read that overcrowding at Hakea currently impacts every area in the prison,” said Ms Xamon.

“The kitchen is not big enough to cater for the prison population, access to health and mental health care is poor, prisoners are often not able to receive visitors, and the assessments and rehabilitation system is in a state of collapse.”

Ms Xamon noted the Inspector’s finding that the cells in the prison do not currently meet national or international standards for single occupancy, despite almost all cells currently housing two prisoners.

“Nothing is being done to reduce our prisons population and as a result our prisons are under increasing pressure,” said Ms Xamon.

“There is a serious backlog in assessments at Hakea which prevents people being put in programs to address their offending, and also stops some prisoners being eligible for parole. As a result people stay in prison for longer, costing the community more and exacerbating the overcrowding,” said Ms Xamon.

“According to the Inspector, little or no support has been provided to remand prisoners when they first enter the prison following the Government’s decision to cease funding Outcare to provide this service.”

Ms Xamon said it was disappointing that, despite the Premier’s announcement in February that by 2028-29 the number of Aboriginal adults in prison would be reduced by 23 per cent, Hakea failed to adequately engage Aboriginal prisoners in work and education, or to appropriately support Aboriginal prisoners through the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme.

“It is difficult to see how the Government is intending to meet this target without addressing the rehabilitation needs of current Aboriginal prisoners”.

Ms Xamon said she was particularly concerned about the parallels drawn by OICS between the situation at Hakea and that of Greenough Regional Prison before last year’s riot.

“The Government does not appear to have learned anything from the riot at Greenough – under staffing and budget constraints are clear risk factors identified in this latest report”.

In a repeat of the theme which has been present in many OICS reports, the findings from the inspection included that there was ongoing inadequate planning and investment from the Government.

“The band-aid short-term thinking that we are used to seeing from the Minister of Corrective Services is not only incredibly dangerous to staff and prisoners, it also runs the real risk of being much more expensive and dangerous to the tax payer in the long run.”

/Public Release. View in full here.