• Despite the increased prisoner population, at the local level there was a strong desire to protect and restore the WKRP philosophy.
  • The Superintendent and senior management team had clear priorities for the prison. They included increasing local (and particularly Aboriginal) staff recruitment and increasing constructive activity for prisoners.
  • WKRP had responded positively to the developing COVID-19 pandemic. The Superintendent had kept staff and prisoners informed about the virus, and the prison had developed a COVID-19 management plan.
  • Unfortunately, the prison had struggled to secure community cultural support. A sustained Elders Program had not been established, and the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme did not have a presence, despite the prevalence of suicide across the Kimberley.
  • In previous inspections we saw male and female prisoners engaging in pro-social and appropriately supervised activities. In 2020, staff and prisoners told us that even those few opportunities had been eroded.
  • Our previous inspections found that therapeutic programs delivered at WKRP had been developed for groups quite unlike Kimberley Aboriginal prisoners. Although program staff had modified delivery to better suit the local prisoner cohort, only four of those programs ran in the 18 months to June 2020, and none were for female prisoners.
  • Prisoner and staff surveys indicated dissatisfaction with work opportunities. Only 26 per cent of staff thought there was meaningful employment for prisoners. Only 53 per cent of prisoners felt their time was usefully spent. Documentary evidence supported those views. Forty-six per cent of prisoners were either unemployed, or under-employed. Women were only working inside their unit. Kimberley prisoners need better employment options.
  • The prisoner survey suggested falling standards across several areas. Although the rating of quality of life, positive opinion of unit accommodation, and personal safety at WKRP had all fallen, they were still above state average. Prisoner opinion of food, and of clothing and bedding had also fallen. Approval of the gym, at 16 per cent, was very low.
  • The prison’s pre-release activities took account of Kimberley issues. The Transitional Manager identified prisoners with six months to parole eligibility or release and helped them with identification and other documents, liaison with government agencies, and plans for returning home after release. She also offered a referral to Centacare, the contracted re-entry service provider.
  • WKRP endures sub-tropical extremes of climate, and with that comes risks of fire, flood and cyclone. These are in addition to the ordinary risks faced by prisons. The Department’s 2019 Review had found WKRP compliant with requirements for emergency management planning. That review also found perimeter security, gatehouse operations, and vehicle security acceptable.
  • Prison infrastructure had suffered in the harsh Kimberley environment. Facility maintenance continued to be a major problem. The initial building specifications may have been inadequate, or perhaps Kimberley infrastructure always has higher maintenance costs. Either way, the Department should ensure that lessons learned from the WKRP build are applied to the design of the proposed new prison in Broome.
Page last updated: April 8, 2021
133: Inspection of West Kimberley Regional Prison