In January 2020, Bandyup celebrated the 50th anniversary of its foundation. This inspection was conducted in May/June 2020 when Western Australia was emerging from the COVID-19 lockdown period. It required a different approach, one that minimised casual contact with staff and prisoners in the facility.
In the three years since it’s last inspection, Bandyup had been managed by three different Superintendents. The most recent acting-Superintendent had won the position permanently just before the 2020 inspection. There was similar instability in other key leadership positions during this period, although at the time of the current inspection a strong and substantive leadership team was finally in place.
In 2018 we published two reviews arising from incidents at Bandyup. The first titled Prisoner access to secure mental health treatment (OICS, 2018b) was prompted by the circumstances in which two acutely mentally unwell women were transferred to the Frankland Centre. These events helped prompt a major effort by the Department to create a sub-acute mental health unit at Bandyup.
The second review was titled The birth at Bandyup Women’s Prison in March 2018 (OICS, 2018c) following an unassisted birth in a locked cell. This resulted in several procedural reforms, and efforts to improve staff culture at Bandyup.
For various reasons, including the opening of the Wandoo Rehabilitation Prison in July 2018, there have been some fluctuations in the population count at Bandyup in recent years. At the time of the inspection, the population was around 250, which was considered a ‘comfortable’ level by prison management.
In 2019, the Department completed its structural realignment which included re-establishment of a women’s estate division under a new Deputy Commissioner for Women and Young People. This restored a focused approach to managing women in custody across the system, something that had been missing for some years.
On 4 April 2020, the Department assumed control over Melaleuca Remand and Reintegration Facility after Sodexo sought release from its contract, rebadging it as the Melaleuca Women’s Prison. A number of key staff from Bandyup transferred both to Wandoo and Melaleuca as the Department took control of these facilities.