In the lead up to the inspection, Hakea had been experiencing short staffing and the prison was restricted by the number of overtime shifts that could be filled. This led to the prison being regularly locked down. A few weeks before the inspection, some of this pressure was eased when a new staff deployment regime was implemented. The agreement stated that before locking the prison down, the prison would try and ease the pressure by reducing services. While still not an ideal situation, at least prisoners had the opportunity to get out their cells most days.

Reception, Remand and Assessment Services

Hakea’s reception and induction areas ran well. Prisoner property was also managed well with few complaints from prisoners. However, the Department should review how prisoners can access their property, particularly their valuable property like money and identification, when they are released from court. Bail services were well managed.

The prisoner orientation process was sound, but the orientation unit where prisoners first stay was old, crowded, run-down and not therapeutic.

Hakea was doing a good job of getting remand prisoners to and from court every day. The facility was small, old and not fit-for-purpose. However, the professionalism demonstrated by the staff in the video link area meant that, despite the difficult circumstances, video linking to court ran successfully every day. A new, purpose-built facility was under construction which should ease some of the pressures in the video link area.

Prisoners access to legal materials and computers was limited, making it difficult for some to prepare for their legal defence. The official visits area, where prisoners could meet with their lawyers, was also no longer suitable for the prisoner population.

Support for remand prisoners when they first enter prison was limited. Remand services that were provided by Outcare were no longer funded, leaving more than 950 remand prisoners with little or no support. The prison temporarily filled the gap by introducing a Remand Case Worker, but could only offer a temporary contract. There was a risk that funding could soon expiry for this role, leaving remand prisoners again with no support.

The Hakea assessments and rehabilitation system was in a state of collapse. The assessment area was understaffed, and initial assessments for male prisoners in the metropolitan area were well overdue. Due to the delay, treatment programs could not be filled, some prisoners could not progress to lower security classifications and the opportunity for prisoners to get parole was being significantly impacted.

Prisoner Care and Wellbeing

Almost every cell at Hakea was doubled-up. The small cells were cramped and provided no dignity. The lack of shelving led to some Occupational Safety and Health concerns and some ligature points were identified. The living units were all very crowded, noisy and chaotic, and were not suitable environments for either prisoners or staff.

Prisoners were dissatisfied with the quantity and quality of the food, but the kitchen staff were happy to discuss these concerns with prisoners. The kitchen was too old and too small to cater for 1,300 lunches and 1,100 evening meals every day.

Laundry practices in the units were causing some problems, and prisoners were not always afforded a clean set of clothes every day. Some prisoners were resorting to washing their clothes in the shower and hanging them out to dry before the daily cell inspections required them to take them down.

Due to the high prisoner numbers and the complex mix of prisoners at Hakea, remand prisoners were not receiving their daily entitlements to visits. The visits booking process was also inefficient and outdated, and was a major cause of frustration for families trying to call the prison to book a visit. Processing of visitors in and out of the prison was sometimes slow, and cutting into visit times.

The number of telephones available for prisoners to make personal calls were not enough for the number of prisoners at Hakea. The long lines to use the telephones was a major cause of stress and tensions for the prisoner in the units, particularly during the afternoons when families were mostly available to speak on the phone.

A new canteen had recently opened and the new bagging and delivery system was still experiencing some teething issues. Prisoners also wanted more variety in the canteen.

Religious services were frequently cancelled due to short staffing, although it was good to see that services for Muslim prisoners had improved.

The role of the peer support team had become unclear. Instead of focusing on suicide awareness, the team was dealing with day-to-day unit issues. These issues should be dealt with separately by the prisoner council.

Prisoner Groups

Protection prisoners had poor access to services, but their employment and living conditions had improved. The protection unit was full, so protection prisoners were also accommodated in the management unit or the Crisis Care Unit. These units are unsuitable, as they do not have full access to the same services as the other protection prisoners.

Aboriginal prisoners were not highly engaged in employment and education. To encourage higher engagement, an Aboriginal Services Committee was established, but this initiative soon failed. One strong area for Aboriginal employment was the concrete products workshop, but this was regularly closed due to staff shortages.

The Aboriginal meeting place was not used by Aboriginal prisoners. There was confusion amongst prisoners as to if the area was out-of-bounds. The Aboriginal men were appreciative when the prison held memorial services for those who could not attend funerals. They also appreciated the role of the Elders that visited the prison and ran a support and counselling program. The Aboriginal Visitors Scheme, however, required more support as the visitors were not able to service the 400 plus Aboriginal men at Hakea.

Hakea is not a suitable prison to house sentenced prisoners, as there are few rehabilitation and education options available. Some sentenced prisoners remain at Hakea long-term because other prisons do not want to accept them. Other prisons should not be provided the opportunity to turn down a sentenced prisoner, if it means getting them out of Hakea.

Keeping Busy

Prisoners had little access to recreation, and the recreation program at Hakea had diminished. Recreation staff were being redeployed to operational roles almost daily, meaning that prisoners could rarely access the oval and gymnasium. Attempts to resolve recreation staffing issues have not been successful.

Most prisoners were either unemployed or under-employed. Due to staff shortages, Vocational Skills Officers were redeployed to custodial roles and their workplaces closed. Education and training was also far too limited. The centre had experienced budget cuts and was also being impacted by staff shortages.

The only official, full-length program for remand prisons had not run in 2018 because of staff shortages. However, a number of short programs for remand prisoners were still being offered.

Health Care and Mental Health Care

A new health assessment process was introduced, which meant that nurses could conduct initial health assessments now rather than doctors. But the assessment system was not appropriately rolled out and the nurses required more training and guidance.

It was difficult for prisoners to get a medical appointment. Some prisoners struggled to fill out the written application, and even those who could were not always guaranteed to get an appointment. The doctors were so busy that they could only be reactive to acute prisoner needs, rather than taking a planned and coordinated approach to broader health needs.

Infection control standards were poor. The prison did not have a well-developed approach to minimising the spread of blood-borne viruses and sexually transmitted infections.

There were not enough doctors to service Hakea’s population and staff did not have many opportunities to participate in training or to develop their skills.

The workload on the mental health team was demanding. There were high numbers of acutely unwell prisoners housed at Hakea, turnover of mental health patients was high and there was a lack of forensic mental health beds available in the state. Drug and alcohol withdrawal treatment was limited, and methadone was only prescribed to prisoners who could confirm that they were on it in the community.

Due to staffing pressures, the monitoring of prisoners at risk of self-harm was sometimes neglected at night and the Crisis Care Unit was not therapeutic and chronically full. Vulnerable prisoners were managed in the mainstream units and getting lost in the system.

The Prison Counselling Service was not equipped to work efficiently and auxiliary services such as podiatry and physiotherapy were no longer offered statewide. The demand for dental service far exceeded the service on offer and there was no Aboriginal Health Worker at Hakea.

Emergency medical escorts were using up valuable custodial positions. Two custodial staff members accompanied prisoners to hospital each time there was an emergency. Unfortunately there were too many emergencies that resulted from routine, simple conditions that were left untreated by the health centre.

Custody and Security

Hakea’s gatehouse design was outdated and unsuitable and could become very crowded during peak times.

The fence between Hakea and the Melaleuca Remand and Reintegration Facility for women presented an unacceptable risk. The risks along the fence line need to be mitigated.

The constant lockdowns impacted prisoner safety and were influencing the rising prison temperature. Staff were managing prisoners from behind the wing grilles, and prisoners regularly had to wait by the grilles to get the attention of staff. Prisoners told us that violence was occurring in the unit wings due to lack of supervision. Prisoners were disengaged, there was a lack of meaningful activities and a poor sense of safety in the units. All of these are potential risks factors that need to be addressed.

The management and punishment unit was crowded and not used appropriately. Prisoner charges were being held up due to the lack of available punishment cells.

Use of force incidents were not always captured on camera, and the prison has not yet adopted the use of body cameras.

Hakea had completed the required number of emergency management exercises, but could do more. The prison also lacked an Occupational Safety and Health officer to proactively reduce workplace hazards.

Resources and Systems

The custodial staffing levels were not sufficient for the number of prisoners at Hakea. The prison was restricted to filling only 16 vacant custodial officer positions each day, despite regularly have far more vacancies. The prison had few other options that to move to a rolling lockdown regime, which was compromising the care, safety and wellbeing of prisoners.

Relationships between management and staff had improved since our last inspection. New communication strategies have been introduced to bridge the gap between management and staff, and they seem to be working well.

Administrative staff were still burdened with a heavy workload, as many administrative processes were labour intensive and outdated. Most tasks were still being done on paper, instead of electronically.

Due to short staffing, staff were feeling stressed and the quality of their working life had declined. We were also concerned about the staff culture at Hakea, as we identified a culture of bullying and sexism.

Staff were well supported by their peers, but they felt that the staff grievance process was not working well. The mandatory training requirements for most staff were out-of-date, as prison operations did not allow enough time for people to catch up on their training requirements.

Page last updated: April 2, 2019
121: Inspection of Hakea Prison