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Assault proof of prison overcrowding
Assault proof of prison overcrowding

An assault on two officers at Albany Regional Prison recently is further proof the facility is understaffed and overcrowded, the WA Prison Officers’ Union claims.

A prisoner who was being escorted to another area managed to get hold of a fire extinguisher and threatened to hit the officers.

The two male staff were injured while restraining the prisoner, with one taken to Albany Hospital with a knee injury.

He is expected to be off work for more than a week on workers compensation. The other officer received a cut to his face.

WA Prison Officers’ Union secretary John Welch said the incident highlighted concerns the union raised in Albany three weeks ago as part of its Respect the Risk campaign.

“We are concerned about the safety of our officers in overcrowded circumstances,” he said.

“The prison was designed to hold 189 prisoners, including the new wing. Last Friday there were 306 prisoners.”

Mr Welch said while there was never any safety guarantee working in a prison, assaults were less likely to occur under improved circumstances.

There are 180 workers at Albany Regional Prison on rotating shifts at the 24-hour facility.

“In WA we estimate that we are about 200 staff short and Albany is a part of that,” Mr Welch said.

The union is calling on the State Government to give staff a 5 per cent wage increase in what is a “stressful and dangerous job”.

Corrective Services Minister Murray Cowper said the incident had been investigated by the prison and a formal charge against the prisoner would be referred to the prison prosecutor.

He said the Albany prison was safe and secure and staffing was appropriate.

Mr Cowper said negotiations over a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement were due to begin next month.

“For whatever reason, the union has decided to start their campaign early,” he said.

Albany MP Peter Watson said the Government should reopen the prison’s old 90-bed wing, a call supported by the union.