Corrective Services Minister Margaret Quirk has moved to strengthen guidelines covering the transportation of prisoners and called on Western Australia Police to co-operate in implementing the new regime.
The Minister’s push comes in the wake of the death in custody of a respected member of the Warburton Community, Mr Ward, who collapsed in the back of a transport van travelling from Laverton to Kalgoorlie on January 26.
“Following the death of Mr Ward, I directed the Department of Corrective Services to undertake a review of prisoner transport services,” Ms Quirk said today.
“The review contained 18 recommendations with varying deadlines for their completion and/or implementation. Three recommendations had deadlines in March 2008.
“In relation to recommendations one and two, revised and improved operating procedures have been developed.
“These require escort officers to record and log all observations and occurrences at least every 15 minutes; ensure that for journeys of more than two hours’ duration, prisoners are provided with a 1.5-litre water bottle prior to departure and that two-hourly welfare checks of prisoners are undertaken.
“The procedures also require checks of the transportation vehicle’s air-conditioning and the offer of additional drinking water and observation of any life-threatening health issues.
“Recommendation three is proving to be more problematic.
“The new operating policy requires that where a person is received from WA Police with injuries or ill health, the GSL supervisor may decline to accept the person without a medical clearance.
“There has been some resistance to change from police but an assessment of ‘fit-to-travel’ provisions in all State jurisdictions is being undertaken to develop best practice in the acceptance of prisoners in custody from police lockups.
“Some States do not have ‘fit to travel’ provisions. But Victoria and South Australia incorporate a physical assessment into their checks.
“I believe it is possible to improve our provisions without imposing onerous requirements on police and I urge that agency to co-operate in implementing these important changes.”
The Minister said good progress was being made on the remainder of the recommendations made by the departmental review.
“For example, the installation in all transport vans of temperature monitoring systems and audible duress alarm systems is well under way,” she said.
“The contractor is confident of completing the work by the May 31 deadline.
“The ALS has already met with the department to discuss proposed changes and it is anticipated that all the suggested changes by the ALS will be endorsed and adopted.
“The inspector’s office and the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee have indicated they will provide written formal responses. These are yet to be received.”
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