WA public sector commissioner called in to review prison system

By Shannon Jenkins

Friday August 6, 2021

The prison system review will consider employment and industrial frameworks, workforce management practices, and culture.
The prison system review will consider employment and industrial frameworks, workforce management practices, and culture. (sallydexter/Adobe)

The Western Australian public sector commissioner has been tasked with reviewing some of the factors that are preventing the state’s prisons from running efficiently.

The review will consider employment and industrial frameworks, workforce management practices, and culture, which corrective services minister Bill Johnston said have been identified as issues in previous reviews.

“With prisons expensive to operate, they must deliver services efficiently so taxpayers get the best value for money,” he said.

“Despite numerous reviews in the past and many recommendations, changes are just not happening. The public sector commissioner has been asked to look specifically at the industrial and workforce practices and the culture of prisons that seem to be stymying progress and reform.”

WA’s prison system consists of 16 public prisons, one private prison, and 7,000 adults. It cost more than $1 billion in 2020-21.

Commissioner ​​Sharyn O’Neill will consider a sample of public prisons and will make findings and recommendations on the necessary changes. She will appoint a consultant to assist with the review, as occurred during reviews of the Housing Authority, North Metropolitan Health Service and the WA commissioner in Japan in recent years.

The Department of Justice has been examining the design of the prison network, the resourcing needs and performance of each prison, and staffing and operations. Meanwhile, the state auditor general is set to commence an audit of prison rostering — including the use of overtime and entitlements — and expects to table a report in the first quarter of 2022.

Johnston said O’Neill would work with the auditor general and Justice to ‘minimise any overlap with their respective work’. He acknowledged that another review would be tiring for the department and for prison staff, but asserted that ‘things need to change’.

“This independent examination of the impediments is necessary to get to the underlying issues and identify practical solutions to deliver improvements,” he said.


Read more: Committee overseeing WA’s corruption watchdog calls for review of training for public servants, sector-wide reform


 

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