Casuarina is facing some significant challenges in the coming years, which will require solid leadership, resourcing and planning. Fortunately, our inspection found that the senior leadership team was cohesive and effective, despite some instability arising from several individuals only acting in their roles.
The current expansion of Casuarina is due to be completed in mid-2020. This will increase the prison’s capacity by 512 beds, bringing the total capacity to just under 1500 prisoners. A further expansion project is planned for an additional 344 beds, mostly in specialist units, with completion expected sometime in 2023. This will place significant pressure on the prison and impact its capacity to provide a meaningful and constructive daily regime for a very large and complex cohort of prisoners.
During this inspection, we heard from many staff and prisoners who raised concerns about the impact of staff shortages leading to staff being re-deployed away from support services such as assessments, education, industries and recreation. This problem is not unique to Casuarina, but the impact is that many prisoners are missing key support services essential for their wellbeing and/or rehabilitation.
When the prison expands there will be additional pressure on these essential services. Perhaps the single most important challenge for Casuarina into the future will be its ability to provide a meaningful and constructive daily regime for the large and complex population it will be expected to manage.