Bunbury MP reveals plan to get prisoners working on local projects

Member for Bunbury Don Punch presented parliament with his plan to put low-risk prisoners to work on community projects to ensure they proceed in tough economic times.  

As the Labor government he is part of searches for ways to improve a $40 billion hole in the state’s economy, Mr Punch told his colleagues on Thursday that there are a number of local projects that would be prime opportunities for prisoners to contribute in a constructive way.

One such program Mr Punch highlighted as potentially appropriate was the proposed Preston River to ocean regional park. 

“This is 893 hectares of really good bushland with an enormous number of species… but over the years it has been starved of funds for effective management and is now suffering from immense weed infestation,” he said. 

“I can see the opportunity for work parties to partner with the South West Catchments Council, as a major environmental body in the region, and Dr Bernard Bischoff, to undertake ongoing management of the park in an appropriate way.

“In the future there is a great opportunity to use this park for cycling, walking, tourism and nature-based interpretation, as well as the preservation of important environmental values.

“The ability to use prisoners on some sort of work-release program would achieve enormous respect and it would enable the community, the prison and the prisoners to get a clear benefit.”  

Section 95 of the Prisons Act 1981 allows prison superintendents to offer low risk, low security prisoners who meet strict security criteria the opportunity to work in the community. 

Bunbury Regional Prison has provided section 95 inmates for work on community projects in the past. 

Correctives Services minister Fran Logan said he had raised the idea of using section 95 prisoners from Bunbury on the Preston River to ocean regional park with Bunbury Prison Superintendent Kerry Bishop, who was enthusiastic about it. 

“Ms Bishop is a very innovative and progressive superintendent in our prison system and I know that she will support a project like this,” Mr Logan said. 

“If Mr Punch writes to me, I assure him the department will look at it with great favour and work through the proposal with Ms Bishop to ensure we have prisoners in that park removing weeds and making it a great asset for the South West.”