Hakea remains a complex facility in which considerable expertise and commitment is demonstrated by staff at all levels in caring for people with many human needs and managing many problems and behaviours. However, staff were overly focused on the negatives, especially in relation to management. Management, which had turned over three times in three years, needed greater clarity of communication, a more collaborative approach, and greater visibility.
Hakea was facing many challenges and it was a time of great uncertainty. Past opportunities for capital developments had been lost and its newest two units were excised as part of a new women’s facility. The residual men’s prison had become even more crowded and rundown.
With operation of the women’s facility out to tender and the Department generating an internal costing model to compete with private suppliers, combined with general budgetary pressures, pressure was on Hakea management to generate real efficiencies in its staffing model. It was struggling to achieve this with WAPOU, its industrial partner, and there was a real risk it would not achieve its current year budget reduction.
A number of matters came to attention that suggested an inadequate appreciation of human rights, especially those applicable for unconvicted prisoners. Prisoner privacy was infringed by the lack of privacy booths or shells when using the Prisoner Telephone service. Inability of prisoners to wash their own underwear infringed the dignity of some. A security-driven requirement for persons wanting to attend religious services to register some days in advance was a potential infringement on their right to freedom of religion, especially for newly received prisoners. Muslim prisoners also lacked effective chaplaincy services.
And we were especially concerned to discover that prisoners unable to complete a call home to advise their next of kin on initial reception were often not assisted to get that first call once transferred to a unit. While it is regrettable that prisoners are forced to share a cell after their first few days, it is unacceptable that the wish of prisoners not to share with a smoker are simply discounted.
We also found that apart from the few able to access monthly Family Incentive Visits, the nature of family visits arrangements is likely to be detrimental to the quality of children’s relationships with their father and to their development. Continued failure to extend the use of virtual visits represents a lost opportunity to help maintain family relationships that are important both for family members and the prisoner’s rehabilitation.
There was a concerning level of violence impacting prisoners’ lives notwithstanding robust responses by staff when reported. Unfortunately this was not unexpected in a crowded environment. But the most serious threat to safety and wellbeing was the lack of meaningful and constructive engagement by most prisoners. Forty nine per cent were unemployed and a majority who were employed had unit based employment. Education has ceased to make an effective contribution to all but a few and industrial training and short courses have all but ceased.
Recreation was seen by management as the basis of Hakea’s constructive day, but efforts to allow more units more time for recreation were contested by staff who feared confrontation and disturbances from rival prisoner groups. Access to outdoor recreation, the gym, and the library were also unequal between units, with the protection unit only allowed access for limited periods on the weekend.
We found that food safety training had ceased nine months earlier due to a vacancy in a single position posing an unacceptable risk. Food provided was unfortunately less popular than ever, despite input through the prisoner council. It needed review against the 2013 review of the Australian Dietary Guidelines which highlight the need for variety. Remand prisoners should also be allowed to exercise some degree of choice over the meals they receive.
Access to basic health care was still overly extended, and it was concerning to discover many GP sessions were wasted due to prisoner patients not attending. Good plans have been created for forensic mental health services since the previous inspection, but nothing has yet commenced. Meanwhile the loss of Unit 8 as a Support and Monitoring System (SAMS) placement has impaired Hakea’s capacity to manage some its most vulnerable prisoners. We were also concerned at the lack of a strategy to help prisoners quit smoking and the lack of a safe method for IV drug users to clean or replace their needles. IV drug use in prisoners is an important vector for the spread of hepatitis C and other blood-borne viruses.
Seventy-two of Hakea’s 287 Aboriginal prisoners were from regional areas. The Aboriginal unemployment rate was 60 per cent generally and 70.1 per cent for those in the 18-24 year old group. There was very little by way of education, training, support services, or cultural recognition for Aboriginal men at Hakea. Aboriginal Visitor Scheme (AVS) continued to provide effective support but their service was reduced. Nor were Aboriginal prisoners properly represented on peer support.
This inspection also draws attention to the inappropriateness of Unit One as the management unit, the inadequacies of the Video Link facility (primarily for courts and official appointments) and the lack of interviewing facilities for prison counsellors. Other issues include the deteriorating quality of surfaces in units, the unsafe condition of the ceilings in the kitchen and laundry, and various other capital and maintenance issues. An environmental health report was given to DCS for its attention.
We also found significant deficiencies in the availability of legal information and resources for prisoners to be involved in or mount their own defence, something fundamental to a remand prison. It was also noted that Hakea’s future as an assessment prison is under threat as most are transferred out before they are sentenced.
While security at Hakea is in most respects very strong, we drew attention to insufficiencies in some monitoring and control systems, the ability of prisoners to break off metal rods from deteriorating unit fences, inadequate procedures for searching and scanning staff, issues with urine testing procedures and technological solutions for scanning of visitors, prisoners and staff. Impact of the adjacent new Women’s Remand and Reintegration Facility was also discussed and in particular the need to establish alternative public access to that facility.
More broadly, urgent consideration must be given to Hakea’s optimal role in the future. Infrastructure planning should include consideration of a new purpose-built metropolitan remand prison that incorporates aspects of design that will facilitate best practice and technology in remand prisons, and meet international obligations with regard to meeting the rights of unconvicted persons in custody. This is something this Office first recommended in 2009.