Roebourne Regional Prison opened in 1984 as a minimum-security prison. It was upgraded to a medium-security facility in 1995.
Roebourne has frequently drawn the attention of this Office since we began operations in 1999, and been inspected more often than any other facility in Western Australia, having been subject to eight previous inspections. The last was in April 2016. For many years, we were concerned that poor conditions were being tolerated for regional Aboriginal prisoners which would never have been allowed in a mixed-population metropolitan prison. We found some improvement when we inspected in 2016, and there had been encouraging signs since then, with a new leadership team in place before the 2019 inspection.
A 30-bed Town Work Camp adjacent to the prison had opened in June 2014, which replaced a long-standing work camp at Millstream. Numbers were low in 2016, but leading up to the present inspection, it was full and appeared to be running effectively.
Cell renovations in the main prison were in train in 2016 and had since been completed with additional bunk beds installed, and ablutions refurbished. Issues with security infrastructure had been highlighted in 2013 when two men managed to escape during a cyclone, and improvements were ongoing.
Roebourne arguably has the hottest climate of any prison in Australia, and we have long been concerned at the lack of climate control in most prisoner accommodation and day facilities. In preparing a 2015 review on climate control in WA prisons, we found that the average night temperature in non-air-conditioned cells at Roebourne in Feb/Mar 2014 was 33°, and typically over 35° in the hours before midnight. Such temperatures were found to be not just uncomfortable, but posed a significant risk to prisoner health. Repeated recommendations by this office for installation of effective climate control systems over many years were doggedly rejected by the Department. They did however, commit to other heat mitigation strategies.