• In August, our Office brought forward its inspection of Greenough Regional Prison, scheduled for mid-2019, following a loss of control incident at the prison in July 2018.
  • The focus of our inspection was on the recovery of the prison in the days, weeks, and months following the event. Our report assessed:
    • Post-incident management, support and treatment of prisoners.
    • Staff support, recovery and management.
    • Access to families, community concerns, involvement and consultation on post-incident prisoner services.
    • Access to services and supports for women and men transferred from Greenough.
  • We found that in the immediate aftermath of the incident, with two accommodation units out of service and 160 beds lost, prisoners were crowded into the remaining cells. Conditions were unavoidably harsh.
  • However, as the days became weeks and the weeks became months, we found that there were unnecessary delays in the return to a normal regime.
  • Within a week, all female prisoners and the male participants in the riot had been transferred to other prisons. Crowding at Greenough eased, but custodial staff resisted the relaxation of the lockdown regime and the re-opening of Units 3 and 4 until extensive improvements had been made to physical infrastructure security.
  • Women transferred to Bandyup Prison were quickly assessed by medical and education staff, given ongoing counselling and support, and disbursed across the Bandyup site. Many had been deeply traumatised by the speed with which male prisoners had broken into their unit, and the perception that women had been abandoned by Greenough custodial staff.
  • Although male riot participants transferred to Hakea Prison in Perth were put on restrictive regimes, within a month, they were back in mainstream accommodation. By contrast, male non-participants back at Greenough were still enduring a strict regime and restricted service delivery four months after the incident.
  • After the riot, Greenough management felt undermined by a lack of ongoing support from the Department in Perth. Although additional personnel were sent to Greenough in the first eight weeks after the incident, that support failed to provide structured change management, and support to return the prison to a normal regime.
  • Staff were traumatised by the events on the night. Psychological counselling and other supports were available, but many prison officers felt neglected by the Department. They expected the riot to prompt positive changes, and were not satisfied with what they saw as limited progress. They also thought that prisoners’ needs were prioritised above their own.
  • Return to a normal regime at Greenough was not helped by conflict between local management and custodial staff. Prison officers blamed management for budget and overtime restrictions in the four months before the incident, and the consequent increase in lockdowns. In their opinion, the incident was the direct result of locking prisoners up too often, and for too long. After the incident, they resisted the relaxation of the lockdown regime, and the re-opening of Units 3 and 4 until extensive improvements had been made to physical infrastructure security.
  • By January 2019, almost six months after the incident, we found that the prison routine had relaxed, lockdowns were less frequent, and staff and prisoners seemed happier. The tensions between management and staff were improving. Unit 4 had reopened, and contractors were repairing Unit 3 and refurbishing Unit 2.
  • Our assessment of the events at Greenough questioned the Department’s capacity to manage a timely recovery from high-level critical incidents. Clear business continuity and disaster recovery planning may well highlight key issues to be addressed in the recovery phase.
Page last updated: December 20, 2019
125: Inspection of Post-Incident Management of Prisoners at Greenough Regional Prison