Over the 2 decades to 2020–21, offences against the person have more than doubled. The number of defendants finalised in criminal courts rose from 68,553 in 2004–05 to 78,089 in 2019–20.
WA’s prison population grew from 3,482 in 2004–05 to 6,770 in 2019–20 and in 2020–21, the state had 668 large bushfires, 3,157 small bushfires and 4,918 other fires.
Policing and justice systems are intricately linked to a range of social, health and economic drivers. The nature of crime is changing – offenders find new ways to commit crime, they are older and many struggle with mental health, drug and alcohol issues. This is changing how police and justice services and infrastructure are used. Demand for emergency services continues to increase and change, in part due to longer and overlapping bushfire seasons, sea-level rises and water shortages. More incidents are occurring in dense and increasingly congested urban areas, and remote and difficult to access locations.
Sector challenges and opportunities
As our population continues to grow, demand for justice and public safety infrastructure and services is expected to increase. This is a critical issue facing police and justice, with the departments of Justice and Treasury forecasting increasing prisoner volumes over the next 10 years.
The rates of imprisonment and recidivism across many parts of the community are high and, in the case of Aboriginal people, deeply concerning. Building more infrastructure, such as courthouses and prisons, to meet these pressures is not sustainable. Greater focus is required to reduce levels of youth offending, and ensure individuals (of all ages) who are released from custody are equipped with the right skills, and have a clear, supported and culturally appropriate pathway out of the justice system.
Integrated and collaborative infrastructure lifecycle planning within the sector and between the sector and other government and non-government agencies does not always occur, resulting in downstream impacts within the sector, and on other sectors and services.
Many Department of Justice courthouses are ageing and heritage-listed, with high maintenance and refurbishment costs needed to meet modern requirements. Prisons are of varying ages and standards and some do not offer an appropriate level of rehabilitation and diversionary programs, including those that are culturally appropriate.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services’ built infrastructure is also ageing in many cases, which presents challenges for capability to withstand increasing natural disasters and the need for maintenance and refurbishment. This challenge also provides an opportunity to embed consideration of resilience into upgraded and new emergency response infrastructure.
Some major infrastructure within the sector is in need of replacement due to factors such as condition, age and obsolescence, particularly the Broome Regional Prison, the Emergency Management Training Centre and the Government Radio Network.
Precincts and shared facilities can provide beneficial alternative service delivery models that incorporate other government agencies and private providers
Aboriginal youth incarceration and recidivism is a significant issue for the north-west of the state, particularly the Kimberley. It is difficult for youth offenders to break the cycle without support and intervention. Faced with youth justice funding pressures in 2017, the Shire of Halls Creek found a new solution in Olabud Doogethu, the first justice reinvestment site in WA. The program’s aim is to reduce youth incarceration rates and improve outcomes for young people in the shire. For further information, refer to: https://olabuddoogethu.org.au/