Ripon MP Louise Staley has blamed Western Victoria MP and Corrections Minister Gayle Tierney for soaring rates of assaults at Hopkins Correctional Centre outside Ararat.
Fairfax Media reported last week that the number of assaults and related offences recorded within Ararat’s Hopkins Correctional Centre has increased by more than 333 per cent since 2010.
That was according to figures requested by Fairfax Media from Victoria’s Crime Statistics Agency.
The figures represent incidents logged with Victoria Police rather than internal numbers on drug and weapons incidents published every few months by Corrections Victoria.
Police recorded 91 assaults and related offences within the prison during last year, with a total of 128 crimes against the person, while drug crimes decreased by 63 per cent.
Corrections Victoria has largely attributed the increasing violence to growing prisoner numbers, with the population having almost doubled since 2010 due to the addition of new beds and significant expansion works completed in 2015.
Ms Staley said the increasing prison population could not, on its own, justify the increased level of violence.
“The size of the prison has doubled, but even if they were only just keeping up with offences, that would only mean a 100 per cent increase and it’s up more than 300 per cent,” Ms Staley said.
“(Ms Tierney) has utterly failed in leadership terms. She just doesn’t seem to have a grasp of her portfolio and the detailed work that needs to be done when you change the prisoner profile – they type of prisoners, not the number of them.
“She needs to do more to keep prison officers safe.”
Ararat’s prison also now houses a larger remand population and a substantially higher proportion of non-sex offenders.
Prison workers consider sex offenders to be less likely to cause violence and Ararat prison’s high proportion of such offenders in the past has been used a selling point to recruit guards.
A spokesperson for Ms Tierney said Hopkins Correctional Centre had it’s highest rate of assaults in 2014, which was under the previous state government.
“The previous Liberal Government left us with a broken, overcrowded prison system,” the spokesperson said.
“We’ve made the investments needed to fix the mess they left behind - including more than 1900 new beds, with a further 470 funded to be opened in prisons across the state and an additional 520 prison staff since 2014.”
According to data supplied by the Crime Statistics Agency, assaults and related offences at Hopkins Correctional Centre peaked in 2017, though the data did not specify the exact number of assault offences.