The Department moved quickly to address many of the matters raised at conclusion of the inspection. This included actions to ensure the continued success of the prison’s self-care model by appointing a new life-skills officer, creating new prisoner positions to help, and installing bigger stoves and purchasing additional whitegoods. Training has been provided to ensure VSOs have completed their initial Essential Level Training Program, a requirement that had been allowed to lapse over the previous two years. Vacant VSO positions have been progressively filled. An Aboriginal Programs Officer commenced, making program facilitation more manageable.
In response to our draft report, the prison says it has also sought to increase opportunities for male and female prisoner interaction through program and education participation, and is pursuing strategies to enhance cultural services [see Appendix 3]. These strategies include establishing an Aboriginal Services Committee, cultural competency training conducted by a local Aboriginal Corporation, and the NAIDOC week launch of prison radio broadcasts.
We conduct regular monitoring visits to prisons. Visits to WKRP since March indicate that staff shortages are less severe, and the prison appears to be running more normally. However, more prison officers are transferring out than in, so shortages may recur. In addition, WKRP remains dependent on several unfunded positions, which must be filled by overtime. This will need careful ongoing management by all concerned.
The Wyndham Work Camp is better-used, and money has been allocated to improve Broome Regional Prison, but the Kimberley still needs a plan. Despite increasing numbers at WKRP and re-establishing Broome prison as a separate facility, only around 50 per cent of Kimberley prisoners are being accommodated in their home region.
Those from the East Kimberley have been especially disadvantaged. In 2005, this office and the Kimberley Aboriginal Reference Group recommended the development of new prisons in both the East and West Kimberley. Government did not proceed with an East Kimberley prison, but did develop the Wyndham Work Camp.
Wyndham is an excellent and costly physical facility, and it needs to be fully utilised. It has a capacity of 40 but at the time of the inspection, the Department had allowed numbers to dwindle to 10, and later only six. It had also mothballed another excellent regional work camp at Warburton. I am pleased to report that numbers at Wyndham are now over 20 and that Warburton has re-opened.
The government has recently committed $2.7 million to improve conditions at Broome. However, this is only a stop-gap measure and the Kimberley still needs a clear, long-term custodial plan. Our concerns date back many years. In our last report on Broome and WKRP I recommended that:
“The Department must finalise its planning for the closure of Broome Regional Prison and for the future of custodial corrections in the Kimberley, including genuine consultation with stakeholders and communication with its staff.”
The Department claimed it was already addressing the matter. But three years on, there is still no plan. As a result, people are still housed in inhumane conditions in Broome, large amounts of money are spent flying prisoners from the East Kimberley to Broome, often for short stays, and the Wyndham Work Camp remains under-used. We have therefore recommended that the Department:
“Develop a regional plan for the Kimberley region, consulting with corrections staff and relevant community stakeholders, particularly in the East Kimberley.”
The Department has again supported the recommendation. Time will tell whether, this time, there is a positive outcome.