$9 million prison budget blowout just the beginning


South Australia's prison capacity crisis has led to a $9 million budget blowout according to senior Corrections Department officials giving evidence in Parliament's Budget and Finance Committee today.

"This $9 million blowout is just the latest cost to the taxpayer caused by a prison system that has been in crisis for an extended period of time," said Shadow Corrections Minister John Gardner.

"The fact is the cost of the crisis in prison capacity will grow over the next few years as the Weatherill Government scrambles to correct past mistakes.

"Today's problems in our prison system date back to the Labor Government's decision in 2009 to cancel a new prison project – a decision that meant they paid $10 million to private contractors not to build a prison.

"The 'rack 'em, pack 'em, stack 'em' approach that Labor took has contributed to today's problems, and they will only get worse without a long-term plan to meet the justice and safety needs of our community.

"We learned today that there has been a 10.6% growth in prisoner numbers this year, but this comes on top of a 10.7% growth in prisoner numbers last year.

"We learned today that the blowout in the cost of holding prisoners in the emergency police cells has grown to $9 million, but this too was predictable, as the use of police cells has been consistently growing since 2010.

"In 2010-11 the Watch House was used for prisoner overflow for 5 days; in 2011-12 for 95 days; in 2012-13 for 170 days; in 2013-14 for 338 days and additionally in 2013-14 Sturt and Holden Hill police cells were also used for 35 days.

"Perhaps the most shocking thing to come out of today's estimates about our prison capacity crisis is that it has come as a surprise to the Weatherill Labor Government – they have ben power for 13 years yet apparently couldn't see this coming."