The Full Costs of Running Acacia Prison are Unknown
While the day-to-day management of the Acacia Contract is good, the Department of Corrective Services simply does not know if Acacia provides good value for money, because the total costs of running the prison is unknown. The contract cost is publicly available; however, the Department has repeatedly failed to provide a robust estimate of additional overhead costs associated with the contract. As a public agency, not only should it be able to provide more accurate accounting for costs associated with the operation of Acacia, but its own public prisons as well. Such a serious lack of financial accountability is not acceptable from any government agency, least of all one that expects to spend over $900 million in the 2015/16 financial year.
There have been Safety and Security Improvements
Between inspections, Acacia experienced a prisoner escape which prompted a complete overhaul to security. Improvements to physical security included additional fencing, improved camera coverage, and a new gatehouse. New intelligence positions were introduced and relational security improved, although we would still like to see staff spending more time out of the unit office and mixing with prisoners. The positive staff culture and attitudes towards security processes were impressive, and custodial staff embraced the idea of wearing body cameras in high risk areas. Staff felt well prepared in case of an emergency situation.
Problems with Health Care
The Acacia medical centre was our biggest concern during the inspection. The health centre staff demonstrated professionalism and dedication. But their working environment and conditions were testing their resilience and in turn, affecting their levels of service delivery. There were allegations of bullying and favouritism and the high number of vacancies was affecting continuity and consistency of treatment .
Prisoner waiting times to see health care professionals was far too long. Dental services had slipped and prisoner dental care deteriorated, and psychiatric services were not even close to meeting need.
The amount of intravenous drug use is too high at Acacia, as it is throughout many other WA prisons. There were widespread concerns among both prisoners and staff about needle sharing and prison-acquired hepatitis C.
Too Many Out-of-Country Aboriginal Prisoners at Acacia
Acacia houses the largest number of Aboriginal prisoners in the state, many of whom are ‘displaced’ and away from their country. The distress experienced by these men was overwhelming. The Department needs to review placements and explore opportunities to transfer these men closer to home. More also needs to be done to provide culturally appropriate programs and opportunities to the 488 Aboriginal prisoners at Acacia.
More Focus Required on Constructive Activity
Keeping prisoners busy is a challenge. Constructive education, training, and skills based activities assist prisoners to gain the necessary tools for a successful life after release. It also gives them a purposeful structure to day-to-day life in prison and assists in safe and secure prison operations. Acacia had produced tangible plans to reach the goal of providing its increased population a constructive day of activity. It had done some of the work required to reach those goals, but still had some way to go at the time of the inspection.