Young people in crisis
The experience for young people in custody has deteriorated since our last full inspection of Banksia Hill in 2020. This is despite the opening of Unit 18 at Casuarina Prison as a circuit-breaker initiative. Ongoing lockdowns and decreased time out of cell has increased the ‘temperature’ within both facilities, leading to regular critical incidents such as staff assaults, roof ascents and riotous behaviour.
Lockdowns have also negatively impacted mental health. The rates of self-harm and attempted suicides have remained high since we inspected the Intensive Support Unit at Banksia Hill in December 2021. However, mental health care services were stretched. The mental health team were managing up to 30 young people on the At-Risk Management System on any given day, limiting the availability of offence-specific counselling for rehabilitative purposes.
Staffing in crisis
Staff at Banksia Hill and Unit 18 were burnt out, demoralised and felt unsafe. Staff reported feeling more stressed and having a poorer quality of working life in comparison to our previous inspection. And, many were suffering the impacts of trauma and compassion fatigue. Still, many remained optimistic, displayed courage and resilience, and were learning to do more with less.
With recruitment efforts struggling to keep pace with high attrition rates, staffing shortages will continue to be an issue. Reforms to the existing staffing model need to be explored to help address shortages and to transform the care and engagement offered to young people in custody.
Physical environment in crisis
In response to the ongoing destruction and damage to infrastructure caused by some young people, the Department continues to make adjustments and harden elements of the built form. The Department is also progressing the construction of a standalone crisis care unit. This is a welcomed development, but we are concerned about the construction phase and how its placement within Banksia Hill may compromise sight lines and reduce recreation options.
Environmental hygiene and living conditions had been neglected as staffing numbers reached critically low levels. This was causing a health and safety issue for the young people and staff. Much of the physical infrastructure at Banksia Hill had also declined into a state of disrepair.