Staff safety compromised as Govt once again ignores corrections

30 Aug 2006 archivemedia

The lock down at Yatala Prison after 17 staff called in sick for work was a result of poor infrastructure, overcrowding and overworked staff, Shadow Minister for Correctional Services Michelle Lensink said today.

“The state of our prison infrastructure and the overcrowding of our prisons have placed extra pressure of correctional staff and their safety is now being compromised,” Ms Lensink said.

“The Public Service Association told media that prison management were leaving positions unstaffed due to budget constraints.

“The best that Minister Zollo’s can offer is to claim that there has been no funding cut to the Department of Corrections – hardly a cause for celebration when there have been increases in prisoners entering our system.”

Ms Lensink said that the number of prisoners had increased 14.3 per cent in the past five years. According to the Department of Corrections Annual Report 2004/2005, the Adelaide Remand Centre operates at maximum capacity round year.

“It is no secret that our prisons are full,“ Ms Lensink said. “My office has heard reports of prisoners being driven around in buses for hours at a time while a vacant cell is found.

“Within the last few months we have seen reports of remand prisoners being placed in housing at Port Augusta and Mobilong due to overcrowding in Adelaide. There has also been an incident at the women’s prison where a high security inmate was moved temporarily to a low security section because of overcrowding, and serious contraband such as weapons and mobile phones have been found in Yatala.

“These incidents have occurred because the Rann Government has neglected our correctional facilities.

“Minister Zollo was quick to declare the finding of contraband in Yatala a victory for the government but what I want to know is how this contraband was able to slip through the security system in the first place? Is it because our correctional officers are overworked, and their resources are stretched to the maximum?

“Unless the Rann Government and Minister Zollo commit to a workable strategy for correctional services they are risking the safety of correctional employees. An overcrowded and poorly constructed prison is a breeding ground for unrest and recidivism.”