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WA justice system - expensive and ineffective

Date posted: 6 March 2013

A new report on the prison system in Western Australia (WA) calls for increased resources in justice reinvestment and a greater emphasis on evidence-based prevention and early intervention strategies for offending.

Speaking at the launch of the joint report Justice and community safety in WA, Ms Cattalini, Chief Executive Officer of the West Australian Council of Social Services (WACOSS) said,‘Western Australians are spending more than ever on prisons and corrective services, and yet our jails are overcrowded and re-offending rates continue to rise.'

The report, produced by WA's peak mental health, drug and alcohol and community service organisations shows despite increased spending, WA has the most overcrowded prisons in the nation. The number of people in prison in WA has grown 40% in six years. Indigenous people have remained highly over-represented.

Rod Astbury, Executive Director of Western Australian Association of Mental Health (WAAMH), drew attention to the high rates of existing and unresolved mental health problems in our prison population. ‘Prison mental health programs are chronically under-resourced and under-staffed, so that treatment is often only available for those at crisis point ... and few ex-prisoners are likely to receive any medical or mental health follow up once they have been released.'

Jill Rundle, Chief Executive Officer of the Western Australian Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies (WANADA), pointed to the significantly high rates of alcohol and other drug problems amongst people involved in the corrections system - with research indicating 80% of WA prisoners have a history of regular illicit drug use and 50% high levels of drug dependence.

‘More resources are needed to support a comprehensive approach for community on alcohol and other drug issues. We need to reduce harmful use in the first place, prevent alcohol and other drug use impacting on criminal behaviour, and effectively treat alcohol and other drug problems in prisons. Then we need to ensure post-release pathways programs are available to support the transition back into the community and reduce further criminal activity,' she said.

While the report welcomes culturally appropriate prison facilities, it questions the investment in incarceration and highlights the need to increase investment in local, community directed initiatives targeting the factors which have been shown to precipitate offending behaviour.

Fifteen recommendations are made including a recommendation to fund a full range of mental health services in WA prisons and detention centres, as well as dedicated units and services in prison for mentally ill women, youth, Aboriginal people and those with acquired brain injury/intellectual disability.

Source: West Australian Council of Social Services (WACOSS) and Justice & community safety
in Western Australia: a call for efficient investment in effective outcomes


Jill Rundle
Chief Executive Officer
Western Australian Network of Alcohol and other Drugs Agencies (WANADA)
Ph: (08) 9328 1682
Mobile: 0407 055 513

Rod Astbury
Executive Director
West Australian Association of Mental Health (WAAMH)
Ph: (08) 9420 7277
Mobile: 0407386238

Irina Cattalini
Chief Executive Officer
West Australian Council of Social Services (WACOSS)
Ph: (08) 9420 7222
Mobile: 0422 422 438


Last updated: 7 March 2013
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