May 10, 1996
Assisting Justice Minister Kevin Minson said today the Government expected the Western Australian prison system to put greater emphasis on achievable prisoner rehabilitation.
Mr Minson was addressing the annual Western Australian Prison Officers' Union of Workers Conference.
"So-called warehousing and simply keeping prisoners safe is no longer enough as the number of offences and people serving time in prison continue to rise," he said.
The Minister said the Coalition Government's commitment to sensible rehabilitation and reducing re-offending had been underlined by significant Budget funding increases including $15 million towards prisoner programs and prison officer training.
Mr Minson said reduced recidivism meant lowering the rate of imprisonment.
He also praised the work of prison officers, saying it was necessary to better equip them for their vital role in the criminal justice system.
"It is a role carried out in a difficult and complex environment and one not always appreciated by the public. It is also a role which can only become increasingly important," Mr Minson said.
"The community is demanding more from all aspects of Government services and prisons are no exception.
"New trainee officer schools will be provided in country areas, a staff appraisal system will be implemented shortly as well as improved selection procedures for new prison officers and better career paths for all Ministry of Justice staff."
Mr Minson said he supported greatly expanding prison industries and a major review was under way to that end.
"I am establishing a Prisons Industries Committee which will look for markets which do not conflict with commercial interests. The committee will include representatives from industry and the union movement," he said.
Mr Minson said improvements in health services included;
+ psychiatric services;
+ a resolution of the difficult problem of managing HIV positive prisoners within the prison system;
+ specific programs such as sex offender treatment programs, alternatives to violence and drug and alcohol abuse;
+ the Bibbulmun Track project; and -
+ the Aboriginal Housing Project.
"A crucial part of prisons' dual responsibility of safe containment and rehabilitation is maintaining good order and a number of new strategies now in place have gone a long way towards achieving this balance," Mr Minson said.
+ a controlled telephone system;
+ new visiting arrangements;
+ prison visiting area surveillance;
+ random tests for drugs and the dog drug detection unit; and -
+ intelligence and prisoner profiling systems.
"The Government is aware of the pressures of high musters in some prisons and, in tandem with the drive to reduce recidivism, additional beds and corresponding increases in prison officer numbers are being funded," Mr Minson said.
Additional prison beds include:
+ Roebourne 50 beds;
+ Greenough 52 beds;
+ Goldfields 60 beds; and -
+ the Frankland Unit 10 beds.
However, Mr Minson said he believed that as well as additions to existing prisons it was inevitable the construction of a new maximum or medium security prison would begin sometime in the next few years.
Media contact: Caroline Lacy 222 9211 or 015 083 526