Boronia provided a safe environment for staff and residents. Relationships between staff and residents were mutually respectful. The centre’s philosophy was embedded in its daily operations. The grounds were in good shape, and the overall feel of the place was good.
We found that the section 95 program was still lacking at Boronia. We have said this before, and have made recommendations about this in all of our published inspection reports of Boronia. We think mothers with resident children should be able to leave the centre to participate in community social groups. We think Aboriginal women should be able to maintain cultural connections through regular participation in community-based cultural processes. And those engaged in tertiary study should be able to attend their lectures in person at the university campus based across the road.
We also reported that the reception area was not fit for purpose. The location of this area in the main thoroughfare of the administration building compromises the privacy of the reception process. Property was often left unattended in this area, which was a risk for both residents and staff. We recommended that a dedicated reception space be established. Boronia’s management team has been responsive to this recommendation and significant progress has already been made against this recommendation.
Health services at Boronia are managed by Bandyup. We found this was not an appropriate model for the delivery of health services to Boronia’s residents. The role and philosophy of these two facilities are vastly different. Bandyup provides a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week medical service and is set up to manage acute illnesses. Boronia’s model of health service delivery is a community-style model, and requires that residents take responsibility for their own health needs. We recommended that health services at Boronia be managed by Boronia. This recommendation was, however, not supported.
We found improved engagement with and support for resident mothers and children. A new manager in this area had revitalised policies and practices, resulting in more positive engagement with the mothers and a much more receptive approach to their needs and requests.
There was also more positive engagement with Aboriginal residents, culminating in the establishment of an internal, resident-driven Aboriginal Services Advisory Group. But the Aboriginal residents missed the service that had been provided by the Aboriginal Visitor Scheme (AVS) which no longer had a resource allocated to Boronia.
Relationships between some officers were fractured. An incident had occurred in the days leading up to the inspection between some officers that had caused a broader divisiveness. We found this was affecting staff morale. We know that management did have a strategy in place to manage the conflict. We also know that Boronia is a good prison and a good place to work. The Acting Inspector also reminded staff at Boronia that addressing staff in-fighting is everyone’s responsibility, and that taking sides is not the answer.
Finally, we reiterated our concern that there was no hard evidence which pointed to Boronia’s effectiveness. In 2012 and 2015 we recommended that the Department commission an independent evaluation of Boronia’s post-release outcomes, but to date this has not been done. The government cannot take informed investment decisions or target scarce resources if it does not have evidence. So we re-stated the recommendation to commission and publish a methodologically robust and independent evaluation of post-release outcomes at Boronia, and also included the newly re-purposed Wandoo drug and alcohol rehabilitation prison in the recommendation.