Wooroloo is one of three minimum-security prison farms for men in the Western Australian custodial estate. For the majority of its population, it provides the last chance for rehabilitation and reintegration before release back into the community. Wooroloo has defined its goal as becoming ‘Australia’s leading re-entry prison’.
Built in 1914, Wooroloo was originally a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. It was converted to a prison farm in 1972. Since then, the groups of cells, arranged in lines along long verandas, have been designated as Units 1 through 4. The Units vary by status, with prisoners progressing through a hierarchy of accommodation, autonomy and privilege.
Unit 1 provides semi-self-care for 86 men. It was described in 2012 as among the best prisoner accommodation in the state. Unit 2, for 101 prisoners, ranges from standard accommodation to full self-care. Unit 3, with 112 single cells, is both orientation unit, and drug management unit – an unusual combination. Unit 4 comprises four blocks, providing standard cells, self-care, and transient accommodation.
Wooroloo is host prison for the Dowerin Work Camp, 110 kilometres to the east. The camp has capacity for 20 prisoners, suitably assessed at the lowest security rating. Men from the work camp helped Wooroloo keep its strong reputation for reparation, giving back to wheatbelt communities in the form of civic works.
Since 2009, Wooroloo had faced instability in the senior management team, staff divisions and low staff morale. At the last inspection in 2015, the Inspector found a new management team driving positive change. Physically, the prison was in good shape, but budget constraints were impacting education and training. A system-wide tightening of security following several escapes had reduced prisoner access to industries workshops outside the secure perimeter, and permission to leave the site for employment or recreation was harder to get. The minimum-security benefits of the old Wooroloo were threatened.