Fires, fights, drugs – our prison system in chaos

Record numbers of fires, fights and drugs found in our state's prisons this year paint an alarming picture of a system in chaos as a result of the chronic capacity crisis.

Analysis of all of the Corrections Department Annual Reports since Labor came to power in 2002 shows that in the last year:

  • there were a record 280 prisoner on prisoner assaults, up from 125 when the Liberals were in government and an increase from 243 last year;
  • there were a record 103 fires in our prisons (59 of which required an appliance to be called), up from 14 when the Liberals were in government;
  • there were 1102 drug seizures – the highest number found over the life of this Government; and,
  • there was a record number of prisoners in SA, with growth in numbers exceeding 10% for the second year in a row.

"These figures paint an alarming picture of chaos and dysfunction across our prison system," said Shadow Minister for Correctional Services John Gardner.

"The extraordinary spike in numbers of critical incidents – including record numbers of assaults, fires and drug seizures – can be directly linked to the Government's prison capacity crisis.

"It's dangerous for our prison staff who are being put at risk because of the Government's failure to plan ahead, and with 103 fires being set there is clearly going to be a financial cost as a result of this damage to public property.

"There is also the broader issue of community safety. When they've served their time, offenders come back into our community, but by creating this environment is the government teaching them to be better people or just better criminals?

"How can we get offenders to engage with education and rehabilitation programs and get them back on the straight and narrow when we put them in a chaotic environment rife with fires, fights and drugs?

"Labor's failure to effectively manage our prison system reduces community safety, puts prison staff at unnecessary risk, and leads to unnecessary and unreasonable financial costs to taxpayers."