I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Correctional Services a question about the safety of Correctional Services officers.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The most recent Productivity Commission report on government services shows that both prisoner on prisoner and prisoner on staff assaults doubled between 2006-07 and 2007-08. The opposition has been informed that the Department for Correctional Services does not have sufficient resources to equip all new Correctional Services officers following graduation. As a result, Correctional Services officers are being deployed in prisons without handcuffs, radios or even personal duress alarms, thus undermining prison security and placing prison officers at risk. This comes at a time when the security environment has been affected by the minister's 'rack, pack and stack' policy. My questions to the minister are:
1.How many Correctional Services officers are working with the appropriate equipment?
2.Given the government's claims that it gives the highest priority to officer safety and that it is effectively planning for prisoner growth, how did the government fail to provide sufficient equipment to all staff?
3.When will the minister accept that the Rann government's failure to manage prisons is placing Correctional Services staff at risk, and when will she provide all staff with the equipment they need?
The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO (Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Road Safety, Minister for Gambling, Minister Assisting the Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (14:42): What a lazy opposition! Does the shadow minister not have questions in her own area to ask? It is extraordinary. What a lazy opposition! The member cannot think of a question within her own area. How extraordinary. I have no idea where the claims of the honourable member come from, although I do have my suspicions. The safety of our Correctional Services officers is always of paramount concern to us. If there is any truth (and I stress 'any truth') in the claims that the honourable member has made, I will ensure that they are investigated. As I said yesterday, this government has embarked on a very aggressive recruitment campaign to ensure that our prison institutions are well staffed. We will continue to do so, because it is incredibly important for the safe and secure running of our institutions. Of course, we will always do that in a humane way. I think that members opposite simply cannot accept the responsibility shown by this government not only in building new prisons but also in committing funds to ensure that there is sufficient bed capacity in our prison institutions in this state. They simply cannot get over it. They cannot move on.
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:44): Sir, I have a supplementary question. Will the minister undertake to provide a reply to this parliament with respect to the issue of whether there is sufficient equipment for all new Correctional Services officers, and will she undertake to do so within this year?
The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO (Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Road Safety, Minister for Gambling, Minister Assisting the Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (14:44): I am glad that we now have a change of words. I think we have added the word 'if'.
The Hon. G.E. Gago: Backdown!
The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: Yes, it is an absolute backdown. The member has added the word 'if'. I am pleased that she added the word 'if'. As I said, I will undertake to investigate that, absolutely, because quite frankly I think the claim is outrageous. However, I will undertake to investigate that matter.
Wednesday 17 June 2009
In reply to the Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (18 February 2009).
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister Assisting the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Energy): The Minister for Correctional Services is advised:
During question time, the former Minister undertook to investigate a claim relating to correctional officer equipment. The following information has been provided:
Over the past 18 months the Department for Correctional Services has recruited record numbers of Trainee Correctional Officers all of whom have been required to undertake extensive training. During the training course, Trainee Officers are provided with all the standard equipment necessary to carry out their role as a Custodial Officer. This equipment includes uniform, belt, shoes, hat and radio pouch.
Other items of equipment, including radios, duress alarms, handcuffs and keys are issued to staff on a daily basis to enable them to satisfy the responsibilities of their position. For security reasons none of these items are assigned as personal issue nor are they allowed to leave the prison.
In mid 2008 the Department became aware that further supplies of some general issue equipment (handcuffs, keys, radios, duress alarms) were required. The Department remedied the issue without delay and also conducted a state wide review of equipment to confirm with General Managers that all prisons had sufficient equipment.
All subsequent requests by General Managers were met and this was confirmed at various Central Consultative Committee meetings with the PSA, who had raised the issue.
It is not viable, nor is it necessary, to have an unlimited number of key bunches, radios, handcuffs and duress alarms (they are coded to an area rather than a person) available. Every officer who is rostered to a particular post has all of the equipment he or she needs. If a Trainee Officer is also rostered to that post, they may not have a radio or key bunch but they are always accompanied by an officer who has the equipment. This practice is consistent with standard practice throughout corrections. The principle being that whilst you are a trainee, you work with an experienced fully equipped member of staff.
A process has now been initiated that ensures all increases in prisoner and staffing numbers automatically triggers a review of equipment for that site, to ensure there is sufficient equipment to effectively manage the prison.
I also note that the Honourable Member has made a linkage in her question to the Department's assault statistics. I am advised that there is no nexus between the issuing of equipment and assaults on staff. I am further advised that there has not been a single incident where an officer's safety was compromised because they did not have all equipment.
I am assured that assault rates over the past three years have remained relatively consistent when considering increased prisoner numbers, changes in the way that assault data is collected by the Department and improved reporting and recording systems.