Since the riot of 2018, the prison community has been on a journey of recovery. There is a cohesive and experienced leadership group with a clear strategic plan. Prison infrastructure has been repaired and strengthened, and the security team expanded. And the renovated, rebuilt Unit 4, a stand – alone women’s’ precinct is now open. Local management led an effective emergency response when cyclone Seroja hit in April 2021.
But some staff and prisoners who were at Greenough during the riot, still experienced post-traumatic stress or flashbacks when adaptive regimes or lockdowns were in place. We heard the prison was sometimes run short staffed and this made people nervous as they knew shortages had played a part in the riot. But our analysis found staff absences were usually covered by overtime and redeployment, and there were only a few custodial staff vacancies. It may be difficult for Greenough to move on and achieve a respectful working and living environment if people live with a trauma response. We think there is an opportunity here for the Department to be proactive in supporting prisoners and staff with healing. This may help build trust and strengthen relationships across the prison community, including with local management.
We were concerned that prisoners were dissatisfied with some of same issues that Greenough’s intelligence services had identified in the post-riot assessment. Prisoners wanted more access to freshly cooked food, like at other regional prisons. But meals at Greenough are often prepared, then reheated and served over the next couple of days. There were not enough phones in units, so prisoners had to wait an hour between phone calls to loved ones. There is a ten minute wait at other prisons. And because recreation officers were frequently redeployed to other positions, prisoners did not always get out of the unit to the oval or recreation hall. We thought the gym equipment in units was a poor alternative. But, more prisoners were approved to attend funerals and uphold their cultural and community obligations.
Living and working conditions were basic. Unit 1 is a small, maximum-security unit which and Unit 6 for minimum-security prisoners, looked basic when compared to other minimum-security units. Accommodation and ablutions in Units 2 and 3 were shabby and dayrooms were sparse.
Supports for Aboriginal prisoners, such as the Prisoner Support Officer, peer support prisoners, and Aboriginal Visitors Scheme were well thought of, but overstretched. We think in a regional prison; these welfare services are important safeguards and should be resourced as such.