September 5, 2012
The State Opposition warns that the Government’s $18 million disability justice centre project may have dangerous consequences for Perth communities.
Shadow Mental Health Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich criticised the centres, which will provide an alternative to prison for up to 20 accused offenders who are intellectually incapable of entering a plea.
Ms Ravlich said there was a need for action on the issue, but was concerned security levels at the centres would create a risk to communities.
“The number of beds, to me, implies that inmates with mental illness may also be considered which could potentially present a higher risk to the public,” Ms Ravlich said.
However, Disability Services Minister Helen Morton said the centre would only be for people who had an intellectual or cognitive disability.
“These groups are among some of the most vulnerable people in the community and need disability services and supports,” she said.
Ms Morton said the two centres were needed to provide flexibility for inmates of different ages and genders.
“Having two centres means we can develop small-scale buildings that will blend into the local neighbourhood,” she said.
People with Disabilities WA Executive Director Andrew Jefferson said the Disability Services Commission would ensure the centres did not negatively impact surrounding communities and residents.
“The DSC has a long history of supporting people with a variety of disabilities,” Mr Jefferson said.
“It’s in their best interest to ensure that communities aren’t at unnecessary risk from people with intellectual or cognitive disability.”
Protesters gathered in July to express concern following the announcement of construction of the centres in Herne Hill and Kenwick, sites later scrapped due to planning issues.
According to the Government, a board would individually assess residents’ suitability before they were accepted into a disability justice centre.
Ms Ravlich said higher security was needed at the centres.
“[The proposed] facilities will have the same level of security as Boronia prison, which is minimum security,” she said.
“I think the centres should be medium to maximum security, dependent on the residents.
“Some of the people in these facilities may be accused of serious crimes.”
Mr Jefferson said people should not lose sight of the fact that the intended detainees were human beings.
“We’re not talking about people who’ve been convicted,” he said.
This story was written and produced by the team at Western Independent.