Following the Greenough Prison riot Corrective Services Minister, Fran Logan, apologised to Geraldton residents for the fear and anxiety caused.
“I will do everything I possibly can to ensure that those ring leaders and escapees suffer the harshest penalties for what they’ve done,” Mr Logan said.
He promised he will do everything possible to implement security measures so incidents like this will not happen again.
“What we’ve seen up in Greenough is an example of mindless violence and wanton destruction caused by inmates and it’s an absolute outrage to not only the residents of geraldton, not only the staff of Greenough Prison, but to the public of Western Australia,” he said.
In a press conference this morning, Mr Logan highlighted the problems of the prison systems that the State Government inherited from the previous government.
“There’s no doubt about it, what we inherited was a system that was in crisis…”
“It was a system that was completely over crowded, with no funding available to deal with the issues and a staffing freeze in place,”
“I can assure you in the Department itself, it was chaotic.” he stated.
There has been record prison population growth, increasing nearly 35% in three years, leaving double bunking as the only solution. More than 200 beds were urgently needed, otherwise the prison estate would have been over capacity in mere months.
“The previous government saw that their response to it was double bunking…”
“When we attained government there were 200 beds urgently needed at that point in time, but more importantly the infrastructure that should have been put in place when the government added more beds was never done…” Mr Logan commented.
In addition, prison sewerage systems are at risk of collapse, and kitchens, laundries and hot water systems in disrepair.
A token $1.2 million dollars was put towards planning for a new $1.5 billion dollar prison, but a new prison was needed several years before now… the Department of Corrective Services requested a new prison back in 2015. There was no planning for the prison estate beyond 2017.
However, in spite of this, Mr Logan commented on what has been done with existing infrastructure.
New beds were immediately added, including a $7.92 million dollar investment towards a 212 bed expansion across the prison estate.
This also saw overdue investments into basic utilities such as laundries, hot water systems, and court video links.
Another $2.7 million was used to upgrade the grossly neglected Broome regional prison, including upgrades for accommodation, and women’s facilities like recreational rooms, kitchen, and occupational health and safety issues.
Wandoo facility was also repurposed into a first-of-its-kind drug treatment women’s prison and will be opened next week.
Banksia Hill Detention Centre has been stabilised with a new regime, and Bunbury Regional Prison closed unit has been recommissioned.
A total $130 million investment will provide an additional 884 beds across the estate, including upgrading existing facilities as part of the new build program.
“We’ve used the existing land and infrastructure of our prison system to build what is equivalent of of a new prison for $130 million dollars in a lot less time than it would take to build a new prison,” he stated.
Mr Logan explained the prison funding introduced in the 2007 budget was based on the amount needed for each prisoner in the system, and it mainly went to providing beds.
He said the reason why the infrastructure wasn’t put in place, and other services like education and rehabilitation programs weren’t implemented is because the funding stream was not properly managed, with only a flat amount of money per prisoner.
An activity based costing model has now been applied, so there’s an automatic increase in funding per prisoner for services required; dealing with the bed itself and all the other infrastructure and service needs to actually keep that prisoner in prison over the period of time.
More staff will be hired to keep up with demands, with 164 new officers through 7 new prisoner officer schools, and approximately 281 extra prison officers coming online over the next few years. This comes after the previous government placed a prison staffing freeze.
Prison officers have been exempt from the Voluntary Severance Scheme program, including frontline staff. Mr Logan commented on the opposition and media’s allusion
of the redundancies being part of why the riot may have occurred, saying it is not true.
“None of those staffing redundancies apply to frontline services, either prison officers or VSOs.”
A staffing review is currently underway, reviewing full time equivalent positions in consultation with the union. The review will provide objective and rational feedback of workloads, and analyse a fair, consistent and safe approach to staffing numbers.
“That will mean that we have agreement with the prison officers union to ensure we have the right number of staff for running the prison and the security of all the prisons across WA at all times,”
“By finishing off the staffing review and the alternative prison regime, that means we will have secure operations run by the superintendents of each prison, with the right number of staff and a reduction in the overall overtime need to run those prisons,” he said.
The Department of Corrective Services Commissioner, Tony Hassall, says he doesn’t have the numbers at the moment. He says every prison have different numbers for staff agreements.
Mr Hassall admits that there has been a lack of staff. One reason is staff turn-over, due to staffers wanting to move back to the Metro Perth area where their families are.
There will be an independent critical incident review led by Jan Shuard, former Commissioner for Corrections in Victoria.
The review will focus on prisoner behaviour, daily operations and deployments, infrastructure prison procedures, analysis of cohort management at Greenough, intelligence and security co-ordination at Greenough, the effectiveness of responses, and what improvements need to be made to prevent reoccurrence.
Mr Logan also visited the Greenough Regional Prison at 11:00am today, while police are still on site taking evidence for prosecutions.
The ten escapees are now being held at Hakea Prison, and will face a maximum term of 7 years in jail for prison escape.
Police have charged the 10 men with Escape from Lawful Custody after it’s alleged they escaped from the Greenough Regional Prison on Tuesday, 24 July 2018.
Several men will appear in the Geraldton Magistrates Court on 2nd of August, two on the 9th of August and two on the 23rd of August.
A 22 year old woman from Karloo has also been charged with Aiding an Escapee and she is due to appear in the Geraldton Magistrates Court on 2 August 2018.