Jump in se­ri­ous pris­oner as­saults

Mercury (Hobart) - - NEWS - CHANEL KINNIBURGH

SE­RI­OUS pris­oner- on- pris­oner as­saults in the state’s jails are up more than 62 per cent, the lat­est re­port re­leased by the Depart­ment of Jus­tice has re­vealed.

A se­ri­ous as­sault is de­fined as one re­quir­ing overnight hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion, on­go­ing med­i­cal treat­ment or any sex­ual as­sault.

As­saults are mea­sured by the num­ber of vic­tims, not the num­ber of at­tack­ers or events.

When com­pared with the pre­vi­ous fi­nan­cial year, se­ri­ous pris­oner-on-pris­oner as­saults in­creased from eight to 13 in 2018-19, ac­cord­ing to the depart­ment’s an­nual re­port tabled in par­lia­ment on Wed­nes­day.

There were zero se­ri­ous pris­oner-on-staff as­saults dur­ing the same pe­riod, down two from 2017-18. But less se­ri­ous as­saults in­volv­ing an act of phys­i­cal vi­o­lence re­sult­ing in in­jury to staff mem­bers jumped by 17 per cent from 18 to 21.

There were also 10 more mi­nor as­saults recorded be­tween de­tainees, with 79 in 2017-18 and 89 in 2018-19.

The re­port also showed the av­er­age out-of-cell hours per pris­oner per day was 7.9 last fi­nan­cial year, com­pared to 8.5 the pre­vi­ous year.

Pris­on­ers Le­gal Ser­vice chair Greg Barns said wors­en­ing con­di­tions be­hind bars had caused in­mates to be­come more and more ag­gres­sive.

“The Pris­on­ers Le­gal Ser­vice pre­dicted 12 months ago that if the Gov­ern­ment did not re­duce the num­ber of pris­on­ers dras­ti­cally there would be in­creased vi­o­lence,” he said. “Sadly, we have been proven to be right.

“You can ex­pect a fur­ther in­crease be­cause the min­is­ter’s re­cent per­sonal in­ter­ven­tion to re­move pris­on­ers who have com­mit­ted se­ri­ous of­fences from min­i­mum se­cu­rity to max­i­mum se­cu­rity has cre­ated enor­mous ten­sions.”

La­bor cor­rec­tions spokes­woman Ella Had­dad said the re­port painted “a damn­ing pic­ture of the prison sys­tem un­der the Lib­er­als’ watch”.

“It is clear that over­crowd­ing and un­der­fund­ing of the sys­tem has led to this dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion,” Ms Had­dad said.

Cor­rec­tions Min­is­ter Elise Archer said the Gov­ern­ment ac­knowl­edged more needed to be done. She said 119 new cor­rec­tions of­fi­cers had been re­cruited since May 2016 and an “un­prece­dented re­cruit­ment cam­paign” had started to hire up to 90 more over the next 12 months.

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