In this inspection we found that, after a concerted effort, Wooroloo had started to resolve some of the main problems affecting its performance. Wooroloo had created a new vision for itself as ‘Australia’s leading re-entry prison’.
Staff morale has improved, and there was less division. Though some staff were unhappy with aspects of the ‘firm’ management style being adopted complaints about inconsistency, favouritism and unfair process had almost gone. Staff relations with prisoners had also improved. Relational security, including intelligence-gathering, was working quite well. The prison infrastructure itself was generally in excellent shape. The grounds were very well-maintained and the heritage-listed ‘recreation hall’ had been well-renovated.
However, Wooroloo still needs to make more improvements if it is to realise its new vision and reduce the recidivism rate of its prisoners. Procedural security needed to be improved, particularly the practice of leaving the control room unstaffed. There were also unrealised opportunities for prisoners to help with maintenance around the site.
We also found that cost-cutting and security restrictions imposed by the Department were hampering the effectiveness of the prison. The assessment processes were taking too long and there were few prisoners working on the farm or outside the prison fence. Prisoners were otherwise allowed freedoms such as community employment and home leaves were required to be shackled and escorted by two officers for external medical appointments.
The Department must ensure that the prison is adequately funded and that centrally-mandated policies take account of Wooroloo’s role as a re-entry prison. Wooroloo will also need to find ways to demonstrate its progress along the way, as government and the public call for demonstrated performance and accountability from prisons.