Prison woes strain police resources

POLICE cells designed for short-term stays are being used as de-facto prisons because there are not enough beds in the Victorian prison system.

A Victorian Ombudsman report, 'Investigation into deaths and harm in custody', has found prisoners are being held in police cells for more than 14 consecutive days at the same location, contrary to gazetted requirements.

The situation has placed a "significant burden" on police resources and resulted in less police being available to patrol local areas.

In his report, Ombudsman George Brouwer says there has been a failure to provide sufficient funding for new and existing prison infrastructure in the past decade.

His findings include: prisoners are placed in overcrowded and at time substandard conditions leading to increasing tensions and violence; and detainees are frequently transferred to police stations across the state, limiting their access to family, legal representation and basic amenities such as clean clothes.  

The report includes a photo of a fold-up bed in a cottage-style accommodation at Loddon Prison on October 31, 2013.

"For some prisons where cottage-style accommodation is available to accommodate prisoners, a number of fold-up beds have been placed in communal areas, such as living rooms, and in cottage bedrooms originally designed to sleep one prisoner," Mr Brouwer said.

Mr Brouwer's recommendations include the Department of Justice develop and implement strategies for dealing with the effects of prison overcrowding.

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