The 2012 inspection had found a prison under pressure but ‘identified many examples where staff, in their own work areas, were getting on the job in a pragmatic and resourceful way, sometimes in the face of significant infrastructure challenges’. However, it also noted that the prison had long suffered from a negative and divided workplace culture which needed to change.
Since that inspection, Hakea had experienced temporary loss of its two new units to act as a youth facility following a riot at Banksia Hill, asbestos works in most units, surging remand numbers, and permanent loss of the two new units to a project to establish a much needed facility for women. These changes caused considerable disruption as staff and prisoners were moved between units and units repurposed.
Centre management had turned over twice since the previous inspection and conflict between the union and management was ongoing. It had recently been announced that an EOI would be released to identify potential private operators for the new women’s facility and the ERA was conducting an inquiry into WA prisons in which a commissioning model was under consideration. Staff at Hakea in all areas were concerned about the prospect of privatisation of services within the main facility. Management was also under considerable budgetary pressure to cut services and find efficiencies.
Just before the inspection commenced in late 2015, Hakea had 891 prisoners, but an extra 205 remandees had to be accommodated at Casuarina. 22.8 per cent of Hakea’s population were in 18-24 years age group. 32.2 per cent were Aboriginal people, including 72 from remote and regional parts of WA or other states.