Drug of­fend­ers fill prisons

Pilbara News - - News - Phoebe Wearne

WA’s metham­phetamine epi­demic is trans­form­ing the State’s prison pop­u­la­tion with more than half of in­mates now locked up for drug of­fences, as­sault or bur­glary.

Depart­ment of Jus­tice fig­ures re­veal an in­crease of al­most 70 per cent in adults jailed for drug of­fences.

Pris­on­ers whose most se­ri­ous crime was bur­glary rose 41 per cent over five years. Adults be­hind bars for as­sault rose 16 per cent.

“The pris­oner pop­u­la­tion is ac­tu­ally chang­ing quite dras­ti­cally,” White­haven Clinic drug coun­sel­lor Tabitha Corser said.

“When we are ar­rest­ing our way out of the prob­lem there are a lot more pris­on­ers who are dru­gaf­fected, putting huge pres­sure on the fund­ing for pro­grams.”

Ar­gu­ing that ac­cess to prison pro­grams was “quite slight” com­pared with what was re­quired, Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Karl O’Cal­laghan said more fund­ing was needed to re­duced de­mand for meth, in­clud­ing in prisons.

He also ques­tioned some re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion fa­cil­i­ties’ ex­clu­sion pe­ri­ods for pris­on­ers post-re­lease, say­ing they could be putting ad­dicts at greater risk of re­turn­ing to sub­stance abuse and crime.

“If you look at what law en­force­ment has achieved over the last five or six years, you’ve seen in­creas­ing amounts of metham­phetamine taken off the streets — mil­lions of dol­lars worth,” Mr O’Cal­laghan said.

“But we’ve only just started to see usage rates drop very slightly. You have to say what other part of the equa­tion is miss­ing.”

Ms Corser said the State’s jails were “se­ri­ously lack­ing” ad­e­quate pro­grams to ad­dress the grow­ing num­ber of ad­dicts be­hind bars.

A Depart­ment of Jus­tice spokesman said the pro­file of WA’s prison pop­u­la­tion fluc­tu­ated and could be af­fected by a wide range of fac­tors, in­clud­ing il­licit drug use.

He de­nied wait­ing lists for pro­grams could be blamed for re-of­fend­ing, say­ing the State had one of the low­est re­cidi­vism rates in Aus­tralia and pris­on­ers’ par­tic­i­pa­tion was pri­ori­tised based on risk.

Pic­ture: Sharon Smith

The WA pris­oner pop­u­la­tion is a chang­ing dras­ti­cally.

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