Prisoners who assault prison officers would be mandatorily tested for infectious diseases under proposed new laws now before Western Australia’s Parliament.
Currently prison officers, who have been assaulted by a prisoner, have to wait three months before they themselves are tested to see if they have contracted an infectious disease such as Hepatitis C or HIV.
The new laws mean a prisoner would be tested as soon as possible and face an increased penalty of $3,000, up from $300, or an extra six months on top of their existing sentence for refusing to comply.
The tough new penalty and mandatory testing is to try to alleviate the burden on an officer who now has to wait three months before they know if they have possibly been infected.
The new laws also cover if an officer has come in contact with a prisoner’s bodily fluids.
The amendment Bill will also authorise the disclosure of the prisoner’s infection status to the affected prison officer. Where the prisoner’s infectious disease status is known, the information will be able to be shared with the affected prison officer almost immediately.
The provisions contained in the legislation mirror the protection offered to WA police officers.
As stated by Corrective Services Minister Francis Logan:
“These tough new amendments fulfil a McGowan Labor Government commitment to support prison officers in the same way as police officers.
“Prison officers are required, as part of their duties, to restrain people and are therefore exposed to bodily fluids through which diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV can be transmitted.
“It can be a long and anxious wait for an officer not knowing whether the prisoner is carrying an infectious disease.
“Under these tough new laws, the burden will be lifted on a prison officer and a prisoner will be mandatorily tested and failure to comply may result in a $3,000 fine and six months on top of their existing sentence.
“Our prisoner officers work in highly challenging and complex environments and this proposed new law takes the burden off them and offers some sense of surety.”