Notwithstanding the WKRP’s principle of custodial proximity to land and family, a majority of Kimberley Aboriginal prisoners, 51.5 per cent, remained in facilities in other regions of WA. Prisoners from the East Kimberley have been especially disadvantaged.
The involvement of male and female peer supporters in reception added to the quality of welcome and support given to incoming and outgoing prisoners.
The prison’s escort vehicle is secure and safe for short journeys, but seats were fitted too low to allow people to sit in a standard position, and lacked external views, thereby compromising prisoner wellbeing.
Even people approved for external work under section 95, and other minimum-security prisoners, are shackled to wheelchairs and medical machinery on medical escorts. This is unnecessary and demeaning.
Orientation at WKRP was well-designed and quite comprehensive, but slippage was evident due to short staffing and earlier dispersal of men from the orientation unit than was originally intended.
Households in units were crowded. Forty-seven prisoners were sleeping on mattresses on floors in cells, hallways, and other common areas, and had nowhere to store their belongings. This undignified and degrading treatment had developed over the previous two years, but would be remedied in following weeks by installation of additional beds in cells. However, these newly doubled cells would be of insufficient size to meet national standards.
Self-catering continues to be a source of pride and imparts valuable domestic skills used by many after release; but there were threats to its sustainability.
Prisoners are issued clothing on admission, and wash their own clothes in their units. But second-hand underwear is issued on admission and replacements take too long to issue.
Relations between staff and prisoners were generally friendly and respectful. But there were some cultural matters that caused friction, and a lack of unit interview rooms limited ability to provide welfare support. A combination of increased numbers and short staffing impacted on staff/prisoner relations, as did the loss of monthly staff-prisoner interviews under the former case management system.
Canteens operated effectively but inefficiently as extra supervision was required. Like most prison canteens they contribute little to prisoner health or wellbeing. A second weekly spend was under consideration.
Men’s access to recreation was limited by staffing and infrastructure. Men and women each have a good library, but the collection included only the most basic of legal resources.
The visits centre is pleasant, and flexibility was extended to visitors who had travelled a long way. Risks relating to sex offenders and visiting children were well-managed. WKRP still lacked an e-visit facility such as Skype for remote visits with approved family and friends.
Assessment and sentence planning were functioning well despite a significant and growing workload, but there were insufficient resources for treatment assessments.
Prisoner support and release planning was significantly impacted by loss of the Offender Management Model, putting rehabilitation outcomes at-risk.
Offender programs offered at WKRP were not meeting demand, nor were they well matched to the needs and responsivity of the prisoner population. Two key programs had been heavily modified, raising doubts about their integrity and efficacy. No programs were provided to women.
A single Prison Counsellor/Senior Programs Officer with multiple other responsibilities had been responsible for program delivery at WKRP. A special unit was needed to develop and deliver culturally competent offender programs at WKRP.
There was evidence of real innovation in the scope of offerings and in the manner of delivery of education and training at WKRP, and tremendous commitment on the part of staff. But delivery was diminished by staff shortages both within the education team and in the prison as a whole, and the lack of qualified industrial and section 95 officers meant that far too many male prisoners were either un- or underemployed.
The Department had failed to provide the Essential Level Training Program to any VSOs commencing in the previous two years. This meant they were not qualified to supervise prisoners without the assistance of a prison officer
Prisoner participation in external work and activities had not progressed, with both prisoners and the community missing significant benefits. This was primarily due to regressive classification and assessment procedures.
Pre-release support services within WKRP were inadequately resourced.
Relationships with community service providers remained strong. But the main provider was affected by uncertainty over contractual arrangements, and stretched by increased demand. This was impacting on services to released prisoners.
Voluntary programs at WKRP were very limited. We could only identify the Men’s Outreach Community Transition and Life Cycle (bike building) programs, and two health education programs supplementing the official offending programs.
Health and wellbeing
A good standard of care was provided, but this was precarious due to increased population and staffing issues. There were issues with equipment, infrastructure, and an electronic medical records system so slow that it impeded clinical practice. There were also long waiting lists for the dentist.
The comorbidity nurse, prison counsellor, and prison support officer work well with custodial staff to care for prisoners with mental health problems and psychological distress, but one counselling position is vacant, and none are properly covered for leave.
There is no training or overall strategy to provide culturally appropriate care.
WKRP was well served by three religious visitors, but separate church services were held on alternate weeks, halving the access for men and women.
Women live in a well-designed self-contained precinct with good sight and sound separation from male units. Capacity had increased from 30 to 40. Houses still lacked a second exit to facilitate evacuation.
There had been changes in the demographic mix of the women with a significant cohort of Asian women joining Kimberley Aboriginal women.
Work and gratuities had been recently reformed to ensure all women had appropriate employment and an appropriate approach to the working day. However, access to work outside the precinct was limited.
Passive recreation options were satisfactory, but active recreation options were affected by infrastructure and staffing issues. Mixed recreation had also ceased.
Integration between men and women had gone backwards since 2014 and the formal intra-prison visit process lacked cultural integrity.
Cultural respect and maintenance
Aboriginal and culturally competent agencies provide health and re-entry services, but culturally focused agencies and elder visits are largely confined to NAIDOC celebrations. WKRP lacks an Aboriginal Visitors Scheme. It is left to the Peer Support Officer, Women’s Support Officer, and peer supporters to provide culturally competent support services.
A majority of prisoners thought staff did not understand their culture. Cultural expression is a core responsibility for Aboriginal people. A more sustained approach is needed, and culturally based agencies should be involved.
The Department still does not recognise Aboriginal kinship and extended familial relationships when assessing funeral applications. WKRP is also disadvantaged by not having a local transport contractor base in Derby, unfairly rendering many potential funeral escorts unaffordable. The prison has undertaken some of these by itself, but this has been limited by staffing and lack of funding.
Locally recruited and longer-term staff have been an asset in transmitting cultural awareness to new staff, but locally focused training is needed for all staff. There are also opportunities to re-examine prison priorities and procedures to better meet the cultural needs of prisoners and develop a sustained approach to cultural expression.
Too much prison infrastructure had not been built to tropical standards, and was failing too often.
Good staff and prisoner relationships and good intel reporting by staff helped keep the security team informed. Short staffing meant that there very few officers to respond to incidents.
Gatehouse staff were welcoming and practices were consistent. Efforts to control drug trafficking were appropriate, but had been undermined by a failure to test substances that had been found. The WKRP drug management strategy had little to offer in relation to demand reduction and harm reduction.
The prosecution process was timely and efficient, and the Multi-Purpose Unit (MPU) used appropriately. Good emergency management practices were in place and included integration and joint training with external agencies.
Administration and planning
There had been a change of Superintendent, and the management team had been augmented by a Facilities Manager position, and appointment of a Principal Officer. WKRP managers had a range of continuing responsibilities for portfolio areas for Broome Prison, and the team had been weakened by loss of the ASOS position.
There was a professional administration team delivering efficient human resource (HR) services that were valued by officers.
Short staffing was undermining the operation of the prison including prisoner participation in education, work, training, and recreation. Staff were also concerned about the impact on security and their own safety.
Staff training had improved, with good recording systems and processes to ensure timely participation in essential training.
There has been no evidence of the Department’s promised consultation and strategic planning for the Department and custodial requirements for the Kimberley region.