Bunbury Regional Prison upgrade adds 160 beds

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times
VideoMore than half of West Australian prison inmates now locked up for drug, assault or burglary offences.

Work has started on multi-million dollar upgrades to Bunbury Regional Prison in a bid to address the over-crowded prison “crisis” across the State.

The $23.7 million upgrade will see a new 160-bed, double-storey unit at the prison along with upgrades to educational facilities and reception, kitchen and dining areas.

The massive project was announced in December last year but in Bunbury for a sod turning ceremony on Tuesday, Corrective Services Minister Francis Logan announced a further refurbishment of a previously closed accommodation unit at the prison.

Bunbury MLA Don Punch and Corrective Services Minister Francis Logan at Bunbury Regional Prison.
Camera IconBunbury MLA Don Punch and Corrective Services Minister Francis Logan at Bunbury Regional Prison. Credit: Jon Gellweiler / South Western Times

The $500,000 refurbishment has provided an immediate 37 beds for minimum security prisoners.

“That unit was closed down in 2012 and has laid empty ever since,” Minister Logan said.

“For the life of me, I don’t know why the previous government did not open that facility because the increase in the prison numbers has been happening over the past three to four years, it’s not a new thing.”

Responding to a question from the South Western Times about why taxpayers should be “excited” money was being spent on expanding prisons, Mr Logan said it had to happen.

“I know people would rather not see expansions of prisons, because at the end of the day I think it’s probably a poor reflection of the criminality within our society,” he said.

Corrective Services Minister Francis Logan kicks of work at Bunbury Regional Prison.
Camera IconCorrective Services Minister Francis Logan kicks of work at Bunbury Regional Prison. Credit: Jon Gellweiler / South Western Times

“But the reality is we’ve had increases in prisoner numbers over the last four years — significant increases in prison numbers — and they have to be housed.

“We have to expand our prison system and if we can do that and create jobs locally, that’s a good thing.”

The project is being spruiked as creating local jobs in the short and long term, with Bunbury-based Perkins Builders securing the construction work.

Bunbury Regional Prison Supt Kerri Bishop echoed Mr Logan’s thoughts, saying the expansion was a positive step for the community.

“I think the big key factor for the community is, we increase by 160 beds that means another 160 South West prisoners are able to live near their families for those valuable support systems,” Supt Bishop said.

“Research indicates that if we can get prisoners re-entering into the community with the support systems with their families ... which currently isn’t happening for 160 prisoners, the community is going to be a lot better off.

“Also the Department of Justice is able reduce the recidivism rate going back into custody without a doubt.”

After it was revealed earlier this year that the prison was 100 prisoners over capacity, Supt Bishop said infrastructure rebuilds and management had addressed numbers.

“We have had infrastructure rebuilds to support that 100,” she said.

“We’re not a prison to have prisoners on the floor or breach any of those standards, but we certainly have everybody in beds in spaces of their own.

“The other important factor is Bunbury is one of the few prisons that has 100 per cent employment or close to it.

“What’s happened between then is we’ve certainly had the services to meet that 100 over capacity.

“The prison hasn’t been adversely affected by that 100, there’s been no increase in the key indicators to indicate the prison is under duress or sufferance because of an extra 100 being put into it.”

Bunbury MLA Don Punch said he was “proud” to be part of a government delivering on its promise to prioritise local jobs and content.

“Every time there is a major new project it creates new opportunities for training and apprenticeships and it is these opportunities that will contribute to the long-term economic growth of our community,” Mr Punch said.

Bunbury MLA Don Punch talks about the multi-million dollar upgrades at Bunbury Regional Prison.
Camera IconBunbury MLA Don Punch talks about the multi-million dollar upgrades at Bunbury Regional Prison. Credit: Jon Gellweiler / South Western Times

“The refurbishment of the closed accommodation unit demonstrates our commitment to finding cost-effective, timely solutions to problems and I commend all involved with the project for achieving this outcome.”

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