Western Australia’s prison population has risen very rapidly over recent years. Two new prisons have opened in the last four years (West Kimberley and Eastern Goldfields Regional Prisons) but the system has largely absorbed the extra numbers by adding bunk beds to single cells and by adding new accommodation units to existing prisons.
This has led the Opposition and the WA Prison Officers Union to claim our prisons are overcrowded to the point of crisis, posing risks to staff and prisoners. However, the government and the Department of Corrective Services (the Department) say the system is not overcrowded, the risks are overstated, and there is actually still spare capacity.
Based on a snapshot date of 30 June 2016, this report evaluates:
- different tests of prison capacity
- prison occupancy rates
- whether prisoners’ living conditions meet Australian and international standards
- risks arising from current population levels.