Work a ‘second chance’ for prisoners
Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis has called on the mining and business sectors to employ exprisoners on the basis “there’s nothing wrong with giving someone a second chance in life”.
Mr Francis made the comments yesterday after a tour of the Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison, completion of which has been delayed by three months.
“The Gina Rineharts and the Andrew Forrests get it. They are certainly willing to train and employ prisoners. They’ve done a lot of vocational training programs in particular up in the Kimberley, but it’s not all about driving trucks in mine sites. There are a lot of other things that prisoners can do,” Mr Francis said.
“From the feedback I get prisoners make brilliant workers. They’re well-trained, they’re welldisciplined, they don’t want to go back, and certainly they make the best of the second opportunity they’re given in life.
“Across the board I think we have a responsibility to encourage the mining sector and businesses to look through that glass ceiling and that stigma that stopped them wanting to employ prisoners.”
Mr Francis toured the new facilities with Treasurer Mike Nahan, inspecting visitors’ rooms and non-contact rooms, as well as a crisis care wing and trauma rooms.
It was the first public glimpse of the new Vivian Street facilities, which are set to replace the outdated buildings at the current prison.
The $232 million EGRP project was due for completion mid-2015, but Mr Francis confirmed yesterday the facility was behind schedule. “It won’t cost the taxpayers any more because of the nature of the contract to design and build and maintain this facility. All the risk has been taken by private sector contractors,” he said.
“(The prison) will be run by the Department of Corrective Services. The only issue here was it was privately designed and some of the maintenance will be done privately. But as far as operating the prison is concerned it will stay within the department.”
Mr Francis also answered questions on smoking in prisons, saying many prison officers were divided on the issue. “I’m a former smoker. For some people cold tur- key is just a bridge too far,” he said.
“We’ll have a look and see how it goes in other jurisdictions.”
His comments came just hours before the release of a statement from the WA Prison Officers’ Union, calling for a total smoking ban on prison grounds across the State.
Project Manager Chris Quinn, Treasurer Mike Nahan and Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis inspect works at Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison.