More than 10,000 behind bars for first time
The prison population has increased by 700 this year — enough to fill a brand new medium-sized prison.
For the first time the total has exceeded 10,000. More than 10,200 inmates are held in 18 prisons.
“We have been agile enough to rapidly increase our capacity to accommodate offenders,” said Corrections chief executive Ray Smith’s report. “But we have also increased our overall capability, recruiting new staff and developing our people to be able to manage and better support the offenders in our care.”
Smith said the department had hired more than 1000 new frontline staff. “We’ve brought more expertise in-house with roles such as counsellors, social workers, mental health workers, community engagement and reintegration advisers and work brokers.”
He also revealed there was only one unnatural death in prison in the 2016/17 year — a suicide.
“Although one death is still one more than any of us would want, it is important to note that this is a significant reduction in unnatural deaths in prison, down from 11 in the previous year.”
There were no breakouts or escapes for the third year running.
“There were five escapes from escort from the approximately 62,500 movements we managed in 2016/17,” said Smith. “All five of these people were apprehended and returned to custody.”
When it came to contraband, he said, Corrections had “successfully reduced prisoner access”.
“Each prison has developed detection plans and our detector dog teams play an important role in keeping prisons free from contraband.
“This financial year, we conducted almost 4500 random drug tests on prisoners. The percentage of those testing negative continues to be above our target of 95 per cent, with 96.4 per cent returning clean results.”
The report showed there were 1500 “non-serious” assaults on inmates and staff in 2016/17.
“On occasion, incidents can result in a serious injury and this financial year there have been 25 serious prisoner-on-prisoner assaults — the lowest in four years — and 22 serious prisoner-on-staff assaults recorded.
“These measures report the number of assault victims, not the number of incidents. There was a total of 13 serious prisoner-on-staff incidents, resulting in 22 victims.”
Gang-affiliated prisoners were responsible for nearly two-thirds of assaults despite being about one-third of the prison population.
Smith said reoffending had been falling for six years, with 28 per cent fewer reoffenders in the system than in 2011.