Hakea is overcrowded, with no immediate signs of reprieve. Almost every cell houses two prisoners, despite being designed for only one person. Cell mates must negotiate the use of floor space, chairs, bunk allocation, television, radio, lights and toilet. The lack of personal space and privacy clearly compromises prisoner dignity and the safety of both prisoners and staff.
Every area at Hakea that we inspected was impacted in some way by overcrowding. The visits booking telephone line could not keep up with demand, and families often struggled to get through to book a visit. When families could get through, prisoners still were not getting their daily entitlement to visits, either because the sessions were constantly booked out or due to contact restrictions. The kitchen was not equipped to cater for such a large population, prisoners could not always get a medical appointment and the video link facility to service the courts was dangerously crowded.
The residential units were noisy, cramped and stressful. Prisoners spent most of their days lingering in the unit wings and were forced to eat in their cells because there was not enough space for them to consume their meals in the day rooms. This encouraged poor hygiene where prisoners slept and it meant that prisoners were eating next to the toilet. There were also long queues to use the telephones, which was causing stress and tensions amongst the prisoners.
This environment was not decent or humane for prisoners or staff.
As prisoner numbers have increased at Hakea, so too has the need for more staff on the floor. Yet Hakea has remained severely understaffed. In early 2018, the Department instructed all prisons, including Hakea, to reduce excessive overtime costs by remaining within the allocated overtime budget. This meant that Hakea was unable to backfill all vacant positions and the staffing levels at Hakea throughout the first half of 2018 were almost always falling short. The Department had an agreement with Western Australian Prison Officers’ Union (WAPOU) so that when Hakea was short-staffed, the prison reverted to a rolling lockdown regime. In the first quarter of 2018, there was only one day in February and one day in March when Hakea did not experience some form of lockdown.
When the grilles were closed, the level of interaction between staff and prisoners was also severely reduced. Prisoners told us that they felt unsafe in the units because staff were no longer patrolling the wings and providing adequate supervision. This is not just disappointing for the prisoners, but it is a risk to the prison.
Hakea is the main assessment’s prison for male prisoners in the metropolitan area. Once a prisoner receives an effective sentence greater than six months, a team at Hakea conducts an assessment to determine the prisoner’s security rating and placement, and their education and treatment needs. The prisoner is usually then transferred to a prison that suits their needs.
Hakea has not been able to keep up with prisoner assessments. In January 2019, there were 538 assessment due to be conducted for men in the metropolitan area, 483 of which were past the 28-day requirement. The backlog of assessments is mostly due to the complexity of the treatment assessment tool, which can take one treatment assessor up to two days to complete. The Hakea assessments area also suffers from a lack of resourcing to keep up with the demand.
A treatment assessment identifies the appropriate offender program that a prisoner should take to address their offending behaviour. Without an assessment, a prisoner cannot participate in an official rehabilitation program. In 2018, we saw that the backlog for treatment assessments had become so severe, that programs around the state were cancelled due to lack of demand. Rehabilitation is no longer at the forefront of a prisoner’s journey. It is common for prisoners to now be released without ever participating in any form of rehabilitation.
The impact of having such a large pool of unassessed prisoners on the rest of the state is huge. There are significant numbers of prisoners around the state who are denied parole because they have not been given the opportunity to participate in a treatment program. They ultimately end up staying in prison past their earliest possible release date, which in turn contributes to the expanding prisoner population. We have witnessed the impact of this firsthand. Prisons around the state, not just Hakea, are chronically crowded, and there is no indication of the population growth slowing any time soon.
The inspection of Hakea was not all negative. We found that Hakea’s core business to provide remand services was working remarkably well. As a busy remand centre, prisoners are constantly coming and going from Hakea. In 2017, there was an enormous 16,527 prisoner movements in and out of the prison, without any major incident. Prisoner property was managed well, with no complaints recorded about missing or damaged prisoner property and bail services were well also managed. The video link area facilitated almost 25,000 video link court appearances, despite the centre being small, run-down and not fit for purpose. A new, video link facility was under construction during the inspection, due to open in 2019.