Telephone use is high but access is not equal
An estimated four million phone calls are made by people in custody in Western Australia each year, with up to two-thirds of the prison population accessing the phones each day. Despite this, prisoners’ access to phones is not equal, and is dependent on their location, security rating, and how much money they have.
Competition for phones increases risk
Overcrowding in some prisons means there is competition for a limited number of phones. This can cause tension among prisoners and may cause negative behaviour like standovers and violence. Western Australia’s ageing prison infrastructure and other constraints like contracts and cost make it difficult for the Department of Justice to install additional phones to keep up with demand.
Overcrowding and inefficient processes are making it more difficult for prisoners to receive visits
The Department of Justice is finding it increasingly difficult to meet the legislative requirements for social visits due to overcrowding and inefficient processes, including an outdated visit booking system and complex visit schedules. Most prisons provide less visits than what they are potentially capable of offering, with the capacity of social visits across the estate estimated at about 56.7 per cent of full capacity.
Population pressures are restricting placement options
The Department of Justice tries to accommodate the individual placement needs of people in custody. However, population pressures across the prison estate mean that it is becoming harder to place prisoners where they want to be. This means many prisoners cannot access social visits as they are placed away from their family.
The Department is mitigating the barriers faced by visitors but more can be done
The Department of Justice has made positive efforts to address some of the barriers for family members visiting people in custody. This includes the provision of family support services for visitors, and offering special visits during times of need. Prison staff generally treat social visitors professionally and respectfully which makes the process more acceptable for visitors. However, the telephone-based visit booking system is inefficient and outdated, causing frustration for many social visitors trying to book visits.