• In the two years leading up to the inspection, Serco had undergone and won a tender process for a new contract to operate the prison. Once the contract was awarded, Serco developed a transition plan to satisfy the obligations under the new agreement. On 16 May 2021, the State Government acknowledged the achievement of operational readiness and approved the commencement of operations.
  • The prison was looking to stabilise its leadership team after a period of change. It had a business plan but it needed further updating to reflect changes in the new contract. There had been a positive start to environmental sustainability measures with more actions planned. The prison had also developed good relationships with its service providers but community consultation was lacking.
  • Staff from different areas of the prison raised concerns around staffing levels in operations, administration and services, all areas vital to the welfare of the prisoners. Staffing levels will need attention to ensure Acacia returns to the high levels of performance it has achieved in the past.
  • In 2018, we found that Acacia’s property store was at full capacity following the recent expansion and recommended that additional resources be allocated. This resulted in a second Property Officer and some extra external storage in the form of a 20-foot sea container. Again, during this inspection we found that property was still facing challenges in relation to workload and storage capacity.
  • Serco are still required to complete fortnightly reviews of protection alerts. Under COPP 4.10, more detailed risk-based reviews of protection alerts are required to be completed on a six-monthly basis. The switch to six-monthly reviews reflects the Department’s understanding that fortnightly reviews were difficult to achieve with the current population and often lacked the detail required for them to have any effective meaning. This contractual requirement defeats the intent of the COPP and is an ineffective use of staff time.
  • At the time of this inspection there were no peer support prisoners employed in India block, as they were transferred from India to Juliet Block. Peer support workers advised that they struggled to have meaningful interactions with India Block prisoners because they were not part of that unit culture. No replacement peer support prisoners were employed in India block.
  • The appointment of an Aboriginal Cultural Advisor was positive, but there was a need for more proportional representation of Aboriginal staff across all areas.
  • As part of the bid for the new contract, Acacia was developing a new core day. Which will work toward full employment (full day) over a two-day or three-day fortnight, rather than the current am/pm daily shifts. The focus will be on employment in industries, education, training or programs. This has significant potential, mirroring what occurs in the community and reducing movement through the prison.
  • Throughout the pre-inspection surveys, during the inspection and in written correspondence to us, prisoners told us that bullying, intimidation, standovers and harassment continued to undermine feelings of safety. The violence and anti-bullying programs were not operating at the time of the inspection.
  • Acacia has an internal and external creche. The prisoners and staff were displeased that the internal creche service was no longer operating following COVID-19 closures.  We were informed most people wanted their children to attend the visit, not sit outside the prison in childcare.
  • Evidence showed many laundry items were unaccounted for at Acacia. During the inspection the issue was raised with management who were aware of the situation but did not appear to raise any real concerns. This raises the questions around staff supervision of prisoners during laundry exchange, and the thoroughness of cell searches/inspections. Inspections of mattresses was not happening, we observed prisoners in some units taking their mattresses out of cells and applying talcum powder. We were told this was to cover the smell caused by age, over-use and lack of regular cleaning.
  • At the time of the of our inspection there were no Prison Support Officers on site at Acacia. One position had remained vacant since the start of the year, and the other was on extended absence. This had a major impact on how the peer support team was functioning.
Page last updated: January 3, 2023
146: Inspection of Acacia Prison