Roebourne Regional Prison was showing noticeable signs of improvement in many aspects of its operations. Much of the credit seems to rest with having a stable management team who engage positively with staff and prisoners. That said, credit must also go to the staff, who appeared to have a positive attitude and a willingness to embrace change. The prison appeared to be settled and the prisoners mostly said they were happy there.
We saw a number of improvements in the infrastructure with significant refurbishment work completed in the accommodation units for men, the conversion of the dining hall into an indoor recreation facility, and other areas throughout the prison.
There have been several security changes which have contributed to a greater sense of safety for the staff and prisoners. We observed better dynamic security and engagement between staff and prisoners.
The Town Workcamp is operating close to full capacity and this offers considerable rehabilitation benefits for the men who are placed there. Our report highlights some of the impressive community projects undertaken by the work camp prisoners. During the inspection, we heard considerable support from the local community for this work to continue and even expand. Perhaps one day Roebourne could be the first work camp to offer placements to female prisoners.
Our report identifies several aspects of the prison’s operations and infrastructure that could be improved and the Department has responded positively to the majority of these. For example, we identified a lack of hygienic facilities for the men to eat their meals in their units. The Department advised that since our inspection work had commenced to address this issue with day rooms having been refurbished and other work commenced to create under cover seating areas. We were encouraged by this and will monitor its progress.
One disappointing response was to our recommendation around providing effective heat mitigation for the accommodation in the men’s units. It is an identified health and welfare risk that arises once the prisoners are locked down that we feel ought to be effectively addressed. We have made this recommendation in various reports over many years, and while we recognise there are infrastructure constraints, a solution is necessary.
Employment and education are two essential elements of an effective prison operation. We identified opportunities for improvement in employment for both men and women in Roebourne. The Department’s response identified several initiatives being undertaken to create more employment opportunities. We were also advised there is a review currently underway into prison education, employment and transition services with a view to better meeting the needs of prisoners and improving employability with links to industry. These steps are welcomed and we will monitor the impact of these initiatives for the prisoners in Roebourne and in other facilities.
Our inspection identified several areas where there was potential for improvement and to build on past success. Many of these areas fall within the remit of an Assistant Superintendent Offender Services, so it was disappointing that our recommendation to create such a position was not currently supported.