Position cuts threaten safety at Port Augusta Prison

Port Augusta Prison.
Port Augusta Prison.

The state government has rebutted rumours regarding position cuts at the Port Augusta Prison.

The Public Service Association (PSA) raised concerns this week that 31 positions, affecting 60 workers, would be slashed from the facility.

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections said the government has "made no announcement in relation to position cuts."

Minister for Corrections Corey Wingard skated around the question when approached by The Transcontinental.

"The state government has made no announcement about cutting jobs at Port Augusta Prison," he said.

"Every correctional officer who wishes to remain employed at Port Augusta Prison will be able to do so."

The restructure comes as part of the Better Prisons benchmarking program, announced in the 2018 budget.

 Public Service Association general secretary Nev Kitchin.

Public Service Association general secretary Nev Kitchin.

There will be no forced job losses as part of the benchmarking reform, but PSA general secretary Nev Kitchin said the proposed cuts will pose a safety risk.

"Evidence shows that slashing Correctional Officer numbers leads increased contraband and drug use in our prisons, reduced capacity to maintain security in prisons, increased risk of violence towards correctional officers, and poorer outcomes for prisoners when they eventually leave the system," Mr Kitchin said.

"These cuts are yet another blow to regional South Australia where unemployment is high and communities are struggling."

The reform comes soon after claims from SA Health that Port Augusta Prison is one of the worst places for inmates developing a dependency on opioids during their lock-up.

SA Prison Health Services director Alan Scarborough and medical director Dr Dan Pronk penned a letter in August, outlining concerns over a jailhouse flood of illicit drugs.

A spokesperson for the department said the reform would be evaluated.

"Following a period of significant growth and expansion across the system and Port Augusta Prison in particular, benchmarking is about measuring and improving the performance of the state's prison system," the spokesperson said.

"It is about making sure our resources are in the right place at the right time. This review is essential to ensure the most efficient use of taxpayers' funds whilst protecting the community."