In 2016 we found that Greenough was not performing well in many areas. Some important progress had been made for women held at the prison, but there were many other areas where previously identified issues were still a problem. Overall, Greenough’s services and conditions needed improvement. Unfortunately, we saw little evidence that the prison’s performance was on track to get better.
The overall services to women prisoners had improved. While there are some fundamental problems with the decision to expand Greenough’s capacity for women, not least that it required women from the metropolitan area to be transferred 400km from home, often against their will. But it also had some positive elements:
- Quality of the accommodation and services was far superior to the previous women’s unit
- Higher prisoner numbers allowed better education, programs and support
- The environment was far calmer than Bandyup Prison
- Women had good support, education and personal development opportunities
- The full-time Women’s Support Officer was doing an outstanding job, and education staff were engaging very well with the women.
Staff morale at Greenough was low. They felt unsupported, unappreciated, and unable to meet expectations. While most were still trying to do their best, others were disengaging. The causes of this had been cumulative and included: spikes in prisoner numbers, recruitment freezes, reduced budgets, staff shortages, having to lock down prisoners due to staff numbers, and ineffective communication between staff and management. Positively, immediate steps were taken to improve management/staff relations when we raised this issue, with Head Office providing support to the prison. It is important for this to continue, and for management and staff to work together in the challenging fiscal environment that lies ahead.
Inevitably, the pressures on services and staff were affecting prisoners. Staff/prisoner interaction had deteriorated and many prisoners felt staff did not treat them with respect. When prisoners have this perception, it is more difficult to achieve security, safety, and rehabilitation. We hope that the focus on improving management/staff relations will have a positive flow-on effect to staff/prisoner relations.
The population and budgetary pressure had noticeable impacts across most service areas but was particularly so in health, programs, work and education. While staff were putting in tremendous effort, there was simply not enough resources to provide equal access to all prisoners across these areas.
Overall, it is time for a medium and long-term plan for justice services in the mid-west region, including Greenough. The prison still houses a significant number of prisoners from the region, but has also become, increasingly, an overflow prison for male as well as female prisoners from the metropolitan region and its focus has been diluted as a result. The Department needs to give Greenough a more defined role in the system. This will allow it to focus on the future, move on from the recent angst and pressures, and provide improved services.