Drug offenders fill prisons
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.
The WA prisoner population is a changing drastically.