West Kimberley Regional Prison (WKRP) opened in November 2012 as the main custodial facility for the Kimberley region. Its operating philosophy was centred on five principles designed to promote and facilitate Aboriginal wellness, including harmony between physical, emotional, spiritual and cultural components of the individual and the community.
WKRP’s unique infrastructure reflected those principles. The four accommodation units were grouped into an open campus style, with self-catering houses, rather than traditional unit-based accommodation. Only the maximum-security unit had meals prepared in the central kitchen.
Over the years, that philosophy had been slowly eroded. To ease population pressure across the custodial estate, cells were double-bunked, and crowding threatened the self-care model and community style independent living. There was no commensurate increase in resources to provide education, employment and life skills training.
The third inspection of West Kimberley Regional Prison (WKRP), was scheduled to occur between 28 March and 2 April 2020. Routine planning had commenced the previous November, but in mid-March 2020 the Western Australian government had declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To avoid the risk of COVID-19 infection, the Inspector decided the WKRP Inspection would proceed, but OICS staff would not travel to Derby. The inspection was conducted remotely. Interviews with individual staff were by telephone. We ‘met’ with two groups of prisoners using E-visits video-conference hardware. Those conversations gave us a reasonable understanding of the status of the prison, and the issues it faced.