Bandyup is layered with a wide range of prisoner accommodation reflecting different construction trends and standards prevalent over its 50-year lifespan. Almost all prisoner accommodation is crowded, with rooms designed for single occupation being doubled-up. We have often commented on the substandard design of Unit 1, which, despite its recent refurbishment, has inadequate cell sizes and is exposed to the elements.
Too many other facilities are just too small for the population size, such as the visits centre, or no longer fit for purpose, such as reception and the medical centres. A haphazard assortment of demountable buildings and sea-containers is evident on site. The kitchen also needs significant refurbishment, retooling and extension as do some other industries.
Historically, the Department’s focus has largely been on addressing the needs of men in prison, whether that be by way of infrastructure spending or the allocation of other resources. At the time of our last inspection in 2017 things had started to change and the women’s estate has continued to receive more attention.
The Department has recently created a separate Women and Young People Division under the leadership of an experienced Deputy Commissioner. It has also undertaken several strategic reviews, which will have an impact on the women’s estate and the role Bandyup is likely to play in the future. In response to our recommendation regarding infrastructure limitations at Bandyup, we were told that some areas of concern had been included in the Custodial Infrastructure Plan 2021-2023 and more may be considered on completion of the Prison Services Evaluation under the Network Design Project.
Leadership stability has also returned to Bandyup and we were encouraged by the existence of a vision for the future outlined in a solid business plan.
Health services, including mental health, have been the subject of much scrutiny at Bandyup in recent reports by this Office. This inspection again highlighted issues of concern around health services, including evidence of ongoing conflict between certain primary health and mental health staff. We understand that these issues are being addressed but they cannot be allowed to impact on the provision of holistic health care for the women at Bandyup.
One area of concern that we have raised in several reports has been the lack of a dedicated mental health unit at Bandyup. It is well documented that the State’s only forensic mental health facility, the Frankland Centre, cannot cope with demand and often prisoners who require admission simply cannot get a bed. During the inspection we were informed that a business case had been submitted to refurbish Unit 1 A Wing as a specialist mental health unit. This business case was approved and funded in the State Budget and we understand that construction has commenced. This is a welcomed and commendable initiative which will have a significant impact on the welfare of many women who are sent to Bandyup.
Another pleasing development since our last report was that 80% of staff had undertaken training in trauma informed practice and 75 % of staff had undertaken the Department’s working with women training. Both initiatives were implemented following our recommendation in 2018 around the need for improvements in staff culture.
Bandyup is a complex prison housing a wide diversity of women; many of whom have challenging behaviours, disability, addictions, or mental health issues. There are pregnant women, mothers and their babies, elderly and infirm. There is also a large cohort of settled sentenced prisoners who are serving long terms of imprisonment. The prison must meet the needs of all these different groups and that challenge ought not be underestimated.
Many of the women at Bandyup are also mothers, grandmothers, and aunties who play significant roles of influence on the next generation in their families. If the prison system supports and assists these women in their rehabilitation and in turning their lives around, then that work will have a significant impact on the next generation. An investment in the women held in prison today will pay dividends to the next generation of young people. The narrative and recommendations in this report should be read with this in mind.