Prison Staffing

15 Oct 2008 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make an explanation before asking the Minister for Correctional Services a question about prison staffing.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: On 24 August 1994, the then shadow minister for correctional services (the current Deputy Premier) said:

If I remove myself one step back from the position of caring particularly about how many prison officers we have in our state prisons, if I were not a politician, if I were just a member of the community, I would want to be pretty safe in the knowledge that the officers had all the resources necessary to keep Yatala quiet, all the resources necessary to keep the Adelaide Remand Centre quiet and all the resources necessary to keep Port Augusta prison quiet. It is not good enough for me as a private citizen to go home at night wondering whether or not there will be a break-out from one of our state's penal institutions. If it takes 30 per cent more prison officers to keep the situation stabilised, so be it.

Since the last election, the number of prisoners in correctional services facilities has increased by 24 per cent while prison staff numbers have increased by only 11 per cent. In light of the Deputy Premier's comments, my questions to the minister are:

1. Will she assure the council that the government is providing sufficient staff to manage the unprecedented number of prisoners in South Australia's prisons?

2. Can private citizens go home at night confident there will not be a break-out in one of our state's penal facilities?

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO (Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Road Safety, Minister for Gambling, Minister Assisting the Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (14:33): My advice is that we have 16 per cent more correctional services officers than when the Liberal opposition was in government. Certainly, I have stood up in this place on a number of occasions—and certainly I have put out many media releases—to say that we have embarked on a very aggressive recruitment campaign in this state to ensure that we have enough correctional services officers: 134 prison officers so far this year, and we have a target of 200 by the end of the year. Another training recruitment course is happening as we speak.

My advice at this stage is that, in the next recruitment course, we hope to see at least 12 coming from Port Augusta and going to that prison to serve in the Public Service. We do know that it is more difficult to get staff in our regions. Sometimes it is difficult to understand why, I have to say, given the quality of life people can enjoy in regional South Australia. Certainly, no-one could accuse this government of not embarking on a very successful and aggressive recruitment campaign, which the opposition when it was in government did not bother to do. There was no planning and no strategy.