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WA Corrective Services considers airlifting p -

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WA Corrective Services considers airlifting prisoners

David Weber reported this story on Tuesday, June 30, 2009 12:38:00

PETER CAVE: Western Australia's Department of Corrective Services is considering flying prisoners
within the state because transport vans are below standard.

The move follows the coronial inquest into the death of an Aboriginal elder, who died of heatstroke
while being driven hundreds of kilometres in blistering temperatures.

The coroner recommended that all Corrective Services vehicles be upgraded.

The Police Commissioner says that recommendation should also apply to police vans, which are often
used to take prisoners across the state.

But the Prison Officers Union has renewed its call for the Government to end privatisation and take
back responsibility for the transport of all of those in custody.

David Weber reports.

DAVID WEBER: The Corrective Services Department is looking at using air charter services and hiring
vehicles to overcome transportation issues.

The Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan says police vehicles also need to be improved.

KARL O'CALLAGHAN: The coroner in the Ward case recommended the upgrading of prisoner transport
vehicles. That must also apply to police because police do a lot of long range prisoner transports.
They shouldn't, it's not police business, but at the moment there's no alternative and we have to
find an alternative.

DAVID WEBER: Commissioner O'Callaghan wants magistrates to work longer hours so bail applications
can be handled over the phone, and he says people will spend less time in police lock-ups.

The Commissioner believes it's impractical to upgrade all police vans to the standards recommended
by the coroner.

KARL O'CALLAGHAN: Prisoners transported in police vans over long distances are being transported in
sub-standard conditions; they do not meet the standards that have just been laid down by the
coroner in the Ward case. If police are to do this in the future then someone will have to upgrade
police vans. My view is that police shouldn't be doing this sort of transport at all. It should be
done by another government agency or it should be outsourced.

DAVID WEBER: But some believe that outsourcing has caused the types of problems that led to the
death of Mr Ward.

At Labor's state conference on the weekend, the former treasurer Eric Ripper made an apology to Mr
Ward's family.

He also said this.

ERIC RIPPER: No-one reflecting on these events could fail to be gravely concerned about the way in
which privatised prisoner transport has been managed in this state.

DAVID WEBER: It was a statement that was welcomed by the Prison Officers Union.

The union's secretary John Welch.

JOHN WELCH: Certainly we were very happy that Mr Ripper had recognized the feelings in the
privatisation of that service. Sure, it's disappointing for us that those comments weren't made
when the Opposition were previously in government, but clearly we're pleased that there's a
recognition now on behalf of the Opposition that there is this significant problem that needs to be
resolved and we hope that the Government will see the same problem.

DAVID WEBER: The current government has given no indication that it wants to dump the contract with
the company G4S.

John Welch.

JOHN WELCH: We do have concerns about the expansion of this private company in the custodial system
in WA because of the criticisms the coroner has made but also the experience we've had about the
quality of the services being provided throughout the prison system. We've been raising concerns
with the Government and since 2001 too about the quality of the service when it was previously run
by AIMS and now by the current company. And it concerns us greatly that we might have for example a
private prison in Eastern Goldfields which could potentially be run by this company which has come
in for so much criticism.

DAVID WEBER: The Premier has said the Government believes there's no reason why a private company
shouldn't be able to transport prisoners safely.

PETER CAVE: David Weber reporting.