We concluded that the price of the Melaleuca contract was fundamentally too low to meet its requirements. Most areas of operation were subject to restricted resources and budget limitations. This is a poor outcome for the Department of Justice, Sodexo, and the women imprisoned there.
We found that the Department was actively managing the main contract. But Sodexo subcontracts several key services, and oversight of these contracts services was less rigorous. Without systematic contract management processes in place, performance issues are less likely to be identified or addressed in a timely manner.
The Department failed to supply the infrastructure necessary for the contractor to meet the expectations of the contract. Melaleuca lacks many prison necessities, including a gymnasium, a chapel, an education centre, a library, and a management unit. But Sodexo accepted the existing infrastructure when they took on the contract, and so also bear some responsibility for their situation.
The visits hall was one of the few areas where infrastructure was not only fit for purpose, but very good. It was light, spacious, colourful, and family friendly.
No other prison in Australia exclusively provides remand and reintegration services on one site, and for very good reason. The different cohorts require markedly different services and supports. Melaleuca’s infrastructure is totally ill-suited to supporting these two groups simultaneously. It does not meet the contract or the need. Melaleuca was driven by necessity, not design. And it was built to meet budget, not need.
Custodial staff were increasingly frustrated by limitations they faced. They were unhappy with various aspects of their employment conditions, and their strong sense of personal commitment to the prisoners increased their frustration. We urge Melaleuca’s management to take steps to maintain positive ongoing relationships with the custodial staff group.
Melaleuca has the highest proportion of Aboriginal prisoners in the metropolitan area, and the contract sets a high expectation of service for these women. Despite this, we found little in the way of cultural recognition, activity, or support.
Health care services at Melaleuca are subcontracted by Sodexo to Correctional Healthcare Solutions (CHS), part of the Aspen Medical Group. Despite being the greatest source of complaint during the first 12 months of operations, we found that there have been notable improvements in health care delivery.
A poorly developed working relationship with Bandyup was affecting adequacy of care and treatment for prisoners with urgent and acute needs. We monitored instances where requests for transfers to Bandyup on medical grounds were initially refused, or significantly delayed. This resulted in belated access to appropriate and timely health care. This is utterly inappropriate. It poses a risk to the prisoner’s health and breaches the Department’s duty of care. Processes for the smooth transfer of women between Melaleuca and Bandyup must be improved.