Western Australia is experiencing large increases in its prisoner population with the growing number of people being held on remand far outstripping the growing number of people who have been sentenced to prison. One in five people in prison are on remand, compared to only one in seven in July 2009.
Remandees tend to pose more complex challenges and demand a higher level of service than their sentenced peers. They are quite likely to be unsettled, unwell or recently under the influence when they arrive in prison. Many are stressed about their upcoming court appearances or about matters they have left unaddressed in the community. Not surprisingly, remand prisoners are more likely to be involved in incidents, and especially in assaults on staff and other prisoners.
Consequently, remand is costly. Imprisoning a person for a short period of time is far more expensive per day than holding them for a longer period. Yet many remandees tend to roll-in and roll-out of prison with more than a quarter of people held for less than a week. In part this may reflect the challenges of meeting bail conditions set by the court, but it is unlikely to be the full picture. This means that the growing remand numbers are not just a ‘Corrective Services’ problem – they are also a problem for the courts, the Police and Treasury.