Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison operating 30 per cent below capacity after 60-bed unit shuts
More than 60 beds at Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison will be closed at the $230 million facility, with WA’s prison union claiming chronic understaffing is to blame.
The WA Prison Officers’ Union raised the alarm that unit three at the prison would be temporarily closed yesterday, leaving the prison operating 30 per cent short of capacity.
Corrective Services Minister Fran Logan said the change was due to more space being created in other WA prisons, meaning prisoners from outside the Goldfields could be removed from Kalgoorlie-Boulder to be housed closer to home.
“The McGowan Government has been building new accommodation units at Casuarina and Bunbury prisons to address the shameful legacy of the previous Liberal-National government’s under-staffing and overcrowding of WA’s prisons,” he said.
“As a result of the prison expansion program and hiring more prison officers, there is now space throughout WA’s prison estate to move prisoners closer to the areas they are from.”
Mr Logan said funding to recruit 458 new prison officers, including locally recruited and trained officers from Kalgoorlie-Boulder, had been allocated by the State Government.
The closure comes almost 10 months after EGRP prison officers stopped work because of staff shortages.
As a result of the prison expansion program and hiring more prison officers, there is now space throughout WA’s prison estate to move prisoners closer to the areas they are from
WAPOU secretary Andy Smith said the union had tried unsuccessfully for four years to have the department boost efforts in staff attraction and retention.
“The situation is only going to get worse following the recent announcement of a summer crime blitz by the McGowan Government,” he said.
“Focusing solely on local recruitment has created a constant churn of prison officers who complete their training at EGRP but transfer to other prisons at the earliest opportunity. In some cases, they leave the job altogether.
“The Government and taxpayers did not invest in a new prison for 100 of its beds to sit empty.”
A Department of Justice spokeswoman said the prison had sufficient staff to cater for the current capacity, 268 prisoners.
“To best manage the prison population at EGRP and take advantage of current capacity elsewhere in the prison estate, a decision was made to close unit three and move 60 prisoners closer to country or family,” she said.
“This type of staff and prisoner movement is not unique to EGRP.”
The current pressures at the prison are further evidence that the Minister is ignoring the unique needs of the State’s regional prison system
Shadow corrective services minister Sean L’Estrange said a staff shortage was putting safety at risk.
“Over one year ago the State Government received warnings of serious overcrowding and staff shortages at the Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison,” he said.
“Prison office representatives for EGRP warned of more than 10 prison officer vacancies in October last year and 26 vacancies in January this year, with more than 60 officers on a waitlist to transfer back to Perth.
“The current pressures at the prison are further evidence that the Minister is ignoring the unique needs of the State’s regional prison system.”
Unit three was set up for male minimum-security prisoners.
Mr Smith said a second 40-bed unit for pre-release male minimum security prisoners had been empty since the $232 million, 367-bed prison was opened in 2017.
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