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MEDIA RELEASE: Dangerously overcrowded prisons making WA more dangerous

23 January 2010

On 27 January 2010, the second anniversary of the death of Mr Ward in the back of a government-owned and G4S-operated prison van, the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (WA) (DICWC) will hold a public meeting calling for action to address the current prison overcrowding crisis in Western Australia.

Since becoming Corrective Services Minister in 2008, Christian Porter has overseen an enormous increase in the rate of prison population growth in WA. The DICWC believes that Mr Porter, by facilitating this increase, is not doing his best for the Western Australian community, and that prison should always be used as the last resort.

As DICWC spokesperson Marc Newhouse explains: “At present, almost all prisons in WA are dangerously overcrowded, and severely under-resourced. The Deaths In Custody Watch Committee has heard many disturbing stories of situations that have resulted from the overcrowding.

“For example, there are the prisoners in overcrowded prisons being urinated on because they are forced to sleep with their head beside the toilet. Not to mention all those prisoners who are not being provided with the basics — adequate food, bedding, clothing, hot water and health services.”

Under common law and legislation, the State Government has a clear duty of care to those in its custody. This duty of care, and many of Australia’s international human rights obligations are not currently being met.

“What’s more,” Mr Newhouse continued, “prison overcrowding doesn’t only affect prisoners, there is a flow-on effect to the community that also needs to be considered. The current State Government seems to be forgetting that once a prisoner finishes their sentence, they will be released back into the community.”

“If a prisoner is released back into the community without having undergone rehabilitative programs, traumatized by their prison experience as a result of sexual assault or violence, or having had their family relationships damaged by lack of access to telephones or family visits, that’s not going to benefit the community — it’s going to hurt families and put the general public at far greater risk!” Mr Newhouse said.

“We believe Mr Porter needs to look much more seriously at increasing the number of places in  programs which offer alternatives to imprisonment — such as work camps and diversionary programs such as those used by the Aboriginal Community, Family Violence and Drug Courts. Reducing the recidivism rate is what will make the community a safer place.”

“Mr Porter and the Barnett government’s current ‘tough on crime’ agenda is misguided, and likely to cause far more problems in the long term than it solves in the short term.”

All interested community members are invited to attend the public meeting.

Media Contact:

Marc Newhouse (spokesperson), Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (WA), 0415 074 602 or (08) 9444-1930

 

 

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