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Coalition unveils new plans for prisoner work camps
18/01/2001 3:10 PM
The Coalition has unveiled plans to introduce new laws allowing suitable offenders to be sentenced to time at a work camp rather than serving a jail term.
Premier Richard Court announced the initiative today after travelling to the wheatbelt town of Kellerberrin with Attorney General Peter Foss to officially extend to seven days a week the operations of a local prisoner work camp.
Mr Court said work camps provided a real alternative to minimum security imprisonment and the Coalition intended to expand the number of camps in operation in regional and metropolitan Western Australia.
“We believe that whatever the offence, the offender should perform useful work for the community,” he said.
“Local communities have benefited significantly from the six mobile and fixed prisoner work camps currently operating around the State.
“In addition, prisoners learn useful skills and gain self-respect.”
It’s estimated that the total value of work carried out since work camps were introduced in Western Australia is in excess of $555,000.
To date approximately 229 prisoners have been involved in the program and an estimated 50,505 hours of reparation work have been completed.
Mr Court said there was widespread interest in work camps and as many as 28 local communities had expressed an interest in hosting a mobile camp in their area.
“Although most interest has been from regional Western Australia, there is an increasing number of communities in the metropolitan area voicing interest in the Coalition Government’s work camp program,” he said.
“However, in both the city and country local communities will have to agree to the work camp before one is established in the area.”
Attorney General Peter Foss said the Government would seek to amend the
Sentence Administration Act
to allow offenders to be sentenced to attendance at a work camp. It will also be an alternative method of completing community-based orders.
“Work camps provide a means to reduce unnecessary imprisonment,” the Attorney said.
“For instance, in the case of fine defaulters and people who have a history of failing to perform community work orders, work camps would provide a better environment for supervised community work and would be an alternative to jail.”
Mr Court said the introduction of work camps in Western Australia had delivered real benefits to communities.
“In the case of the Kellerberrin work camp, prisoners with a suitable security rating have undertaken more than 4,500 hours of work in the Shires of Kellerberrin, Merredin and Tammin since the camp was introduced in February last year,” he said.
“In dollar terms the value of this work is in excess of $45,000. However, there is also a social advantage in that community spirit benefits from the knowledge that they are contributing to a prisoner’s rehabilitation.
“Prisoners have worked on a range of environmental and recreational projects in the region. These have included the clean up after flooding in Burracoppin in February last year, developing the Kellerberrin Maze which is a Centenary of Federation project, assisting with improvements to the Tammin Retirement Village and preparations for the arrival of the Olympic Torch Relay in the area before Sydney 2000.”
Mr Foss said the Shires of Kellerberrin, Tammin and Merredin and members of the local community had been committed to ensuring the success of the prisoner work camp in the region.
“I’m sure the prisoners have been a terrific resource for the community, but equally the work camp has delivered to the prisoners practical skills and a sound working routine that will stand them in good stead when they return to the community,” the Minister said.
The Coalition Government has developed work camps for selected adult prisoners at Walpole, Badgingarra, Toodyay, Garden Island, Kellerberrin and Millstream.
Another work camp will begin operation at Bungarun near Derby next month.
Justine Whittome, Premier’s office, 9222 9475
Danielle van Kampen 9480 5970