Prison Crisis Impacting Police Operations

The Weatherill Government came under fire in Question Time today after revelations by Police Commissioner Gary Burns that the overflow of prisoners into police cells was starting “to impact on police operations”.

On 891 ABC this morning, Commissioner Burns said: “And sometimes we’ve found in recent times, and the issue for us is there hasn’t been any room for a police prisoner to be taken say into the City Watchhouse. So we’ve had to transport that prisoner and charge them at another location – Port Adelaide or Holden Hill for example.”

Presenter: “You’re having to play musical chairs with your prisoners?”, Commissioner Burns: “Yeah, and that’s what we want to minimise. Once it gets to that stage then that starts to impact on police operations and times off the road.”

Shadow Corrections Minister John Gardner slammed the Labor Government for failing to address long term systemic issues in the Corrections system that are now impacting on police operations.

“As a result of record numbers of prisoners the Weatherill Government has been using police cells to manage the overflow every day this year,” said Mr Gardner.

“That creates significant hassles for police officers who often have to take police prisoners across town to be charged because their local police cells are being used to deal with prison overcrowding.

“It’s a waste of police time and resources. Labor should never have let the prison shambles descend to such a state that it is impacting on policing.”

Information received by the State Liberals under Freedom of Information in relation to use of police cells by Corrections shows the escalation of the problem:

- In 2010-11 the Watch House was used for 5 days

- In 2011-12 the Watch House was used for 95 days

- In 2012-13 the Watch House was used for 170 days

- In 2013-14 the Watch House was used for 338 days and Sturt and Holden Hill police cells were also used for 35 days.

“SA’s Corrections system is now a complete shambles and whether it is lost police time, lost mental health beds, the budget blowout or safety issues for Corrections staff, all South Australians are starting to pay the price of thirteen years of Labor’s incompetence,” Mr Gardner said.