Prison’s laundry hung out to dry

Glenn CordingleyThe West Australian

An independent prison watchdog has hung out some dirty linen on a Kimberley jail, saying new underwear should be sold to inmates waiting “too long” for replacements.

Prisoners are issued with second-hand underwear on admission to the West Kimberley Regional Prison in Derby but Inspector of Custodial Services Neil Morgan said new supplies were bogged down by delays.

Mr Morgan suggested new underwear be made available to inmates upon arrival and socks, jocks, singlets and T-shirts be available for sale.

Mr Morgan made 19 recommendations to the State Government after his March inspection of the WKRP.

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Top of the list was to modify or replace the WKRP secure vehicle, so prisoners could sit in a standard position and have external views while seated without compromising security.

He said 11 people approved for external work and other minimum security prisoners were shackled to wheelchairs and other machinery while on medical escort.

“This is unnecessary and demeaning,” he said.

He advised the Department of Corrective Services to revise medical escort security procedures to reduce use of restraints.

The WA Prison Officers’ Union supported the findings, which included overcrowded accommodation units and inmates sleeping on mattresses on cell floors, in hallways, and other common areas with nowhere to store their belongings. Short- staffing was identified as a problem.

Staff were also concerned about the impact of short-staffing on security and their own safety.

WAPOU secretary John Welch said overcrowding and under staffing at WKRP continued to be of serious concern to prison staff.

“Staff at West Kimberley have been voicing their concerns about staff shortages and a range of other issues as highlighted in the report for some time,” he said.

“Staff are often asked to work under conditions that are not acceptable for themselves or the prisoners.”

Mr Welch said in a recent incident, prisoners were able to escape from their quarters into the main prison and arm themselves.

“Fortunately, there were enough officers rostered on to manage and contain the situation, however that is not always the case,” he said.

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