Corrective Services Minister Fran Logan says he has put private prison operator Sodexo on notice over repeated contract breaches and claims the Melaleuca women’s jail is so poorly run that lawyers visiting inmates feel unsafe there.
Legal Aid WA has stopped its lawyers from visiting the prison less than five months after it was opened because of safety fears.
The $24 million prison was opened by the previous Liberal National government last December, with French company Sodexo offered $15,000 bonuses for every inmate who stays out of jail for two years after being released.
Legal Aid’s issues relate to what it sees as poor standards and discipline at the 254-bed Melaleuca Women’s Remand and Reintegration Facility.
It claims its lawyers were not being given duress alarms and put in dangerous situations, with other inmates standing around and guards not present when they have been meeting with prisoners and they have also had trouble contacting clients to prepare legal defences.
AAP has been told of serious problems with violence and drugs at the prison but Legal Aid is yet to comment.
Sodexo denies the “unsubstantiated allegations in relation to security practices”.
Corrective Services Minister Fran Logan, Criminal Lawyers Association of WA president Genevieve Cleary and Community and Public Sector Union WA secretary Toni Walkington came out to strongly criticise Sodexo and the way it is running the prison.
Mr Logan said Sodexo had already been fined $25,000 three times for contract breaches, he had put the company “on notice” and ordered that it’s generous contract be examined.
“There are KPIs within the contract that they have to comply with … in exchange for a generous payment from the taxpayers of Western Australia and I am going to make sure they comply with that contract,” he said.
Sodexo said in a statement that it met with Legal Aid on Thursday and it would continue to work with stakeholders to assess performance and implement any improvements at Melaleuca.
“The meeting was extremely positive and it is anticipated that the visits will resume shortly,” it said.