Acacia Prison opened in 2001 as Western Australia’s first privately managed prison. It was initially managed by Australasian Integration Management Services, but was taken over in 2006 by current operator Serco. The government’s contract with Serco was for an initial period of five years, with options for two five year renewals, meaning that the contract could last up to 15 years.
In 2015, Serco was approaching the end of its second five-year operation period. The government was therefore presented with the options to renew the contract for a further five-year term (or part thereof), or of putting the operations of Acacia out to tender. The Inspector bought forward this inspection of Acacia to November 2015 so he could provide independent advice to the Minister and the department about the standard of service delivery in this decision making.
During the 2013 inspection, Acacia was in the midst of a $126 million expansion to deliver an additional 387 beds. This took the prisoner population to 1,395, the largest in WA. The scale, impact, and risks of the expansion could not be under-estimated. The project was equivalent to building a prison within a large, fully operational prison and was on a different scale to other infrastructure projects conducted previously at Casuarina and Hakea Prisons. There was mature and positive collaboration between the Department and Serco about what to build. Although there were some specific issues relating to the project, the overall result is very impressive.
The inspection also needed to look at how expansion had settled in, the impact on service delivery and the security and safety of prisoners, staff and the community.