The West

Review to tackle prison congestion
Safety fears: Bandyup women's prison. Picture: Steve Ferrier/The West Australian

WA's prison system will be overhauled to deal with a record number of people behind bars.

Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis told The West Australian that an urgent review of all correctional facilities was under way, headed by Corrective Services Commissioner James McMahon.

It will focus particularly on the crisis at Bandyup women's prison, where numbers have almost reached a level where the prison can no longer be run safely.

Up to 30 inmates have been forced to sleep on mattresses on the floor recently as the total prison population rose to 5138 last week.

Mr Francis said Mr McMahon was looking at which prison facilities and assets were being under-used for their purpose and which were being overstretched, with a view to reorganising the $1 billion-a-year system.

_The West Australian _revealed yesterday just five inmates were being held at a $17 million prison work camp, which costs almost $1.4 million a year to run. Mr Francis said he would like to see more prisoners in work camps, which helped reduce reoffending, and that Mr McMahon was looking at how prisoners could be better assessed for suitability for work camps.

Other options believed to be under consideration include increasing the number of female prisoners in Greenough Regional Prison by moving men to units at Hakea and Acacia prisons.

Mr Francis said the Government was examining the possibility of increasing the upper age limit at Wandoo Reintegration Facility to 28. Wandoo is WA's first and only facility dedicated to young male offenders aged 18 to 24 and is run by private contractor Serco, but was only half full earlier this year.

Prison bosses were yesterday investigating a second disturbance at a WA correctional facility in as many days. Three juveniles damaged three cells at Banskia Hill detention centre on Friday. Mr Francis said the damage was "fairly minimal".

The West Australian

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