: WA prisons reform

WA prisons reform

Steven Casten
Western Australia

Specific management standards of female prisoners are set to be introduced across WA for the first time. These new standards will particularly affect indigenous inmates.

Until this announcement there had been no gender specific management rules and regulations. James McMahon, the Corrective Services Minister, noted the changes were aimed at culturally sensitive treatment of aboriginal women which will hopefully lead to a more 'meaningful interaction' with women in prison.

The new measures include greater recognition of the fact that many female detainees have come from a background of trauma and abuse. Also, there is likely to be less emphasis on the use of force by corrective services employees and a new focus on de-escalation.

This would include a review of how force was used to handle situations which could involve re-training some officers who guard women so they could 'talk down' women who were in a heightened situation. McMahon stated: 'If you're a victim of crime and you've been abused, which a lot of women in the estate are ... then you've got to use a treatment that supports rehabilitation'.

The changes are to be introduced gradually, according to the minister.

In other prisons news, Bunbury Prison trialled punishing drug users in prison by curtailing their visitation rights if they are caught using drugs. The trial, deemed a success, will be rolled out to all jails in the state.

The reform is said to have been a success in deterring prisoners from using drugs whilst in jail, according to Minister Joe Francis. The policy sees inmates who fail drug tests banned from having contact with their families.

The policy change has been criticised however, by Brian Steels, spokesman for Prison Reform Group of WA who stated that drug taking is a social issue and should be treated as such.

Dr Steels said scaling back visitation privileges also punished prisoners' family members and put the safety of prison officers at risk. 'Many jurisdictions internationally actually don't lock up people for addictive substances, they are dealt with within the community. He's expecting prison officers to take the brunt of this.'

The trial was in Bunbury prison, which is considered quieter than Hakea and Casuarina, where Dr Steels expects 'lots of problems' if the policy is introduced.

STEVEN CASTAN is a WA-based barrister and 
nationally-accredited mediator.

(2016) 41(2) AltLJ 141
You are here: Home News & Views DownUnderAllOver DUAO - Vol 41(2) WA prisons reform

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