Casuarina opened in 1991, replacing the colonial era Fremantle Prison as the state’s main maximum-security facility for male prisoners. The prison runs several specialist units to which prisoners from around the state can be sent as necessary:

  • Special Handling Unit – for prisoners who present a heightened security risk, threat to staff or other prisoners, or escape risk.
  • Special Protection Unit – for prisoners who are at special risk from the mainstream prisoner population.
  • Crisis Care Unit – for prisoners at risk of self-harm.
  • Infirmary – for prisoners who require periods of pre-hospital preparation, or post-hospital recuperation, and for those where medical needs fall short of hospitalisation. There is also a separate wing for prisoners with impaired mobility who are physically unable to live in a regular unit.
  • Mallee Rehabilitation Centre – for prisoners seeking to address alcohol and other drug addictions. The nine-month Solid Steps program is based in Unit 15 and runs as a modified therapeutic community.

The original design capacity of the prison was 397, primarily in single cells. Over the years, double bunking had become increasingly widespread. During this inspection, more than
80% of prisoners in standard accommodation were sharing a cell.

More recent additions to the prison have included units made up entirely of double cells. Two new units were opened in 2012–2013, adding 128 new cells (and 256 beds). Another
four new units were opened in 2020–2021, adding 256 new cells (and 512 beds). This brought the total capacity of the prison to 1,514 (including 249 special purpose beds). However, in July 2022, one of the newest units (Unit 18) was annexed as a youth custodial facility, removing 128 beds from Casuarina’s capacity. So total capacity at the time of our inspection was 1,386.

Further construction was under way as part of a major expansion that had effectively been ongoing since 2019. As mentioned above, four new units (Units 15-18) had already been completed and opened. Another two units were under construction, adding 128 cells (256 beds). A support building for the new units and an industries building were due for completion around the time of our inspection. A high-security unit was also under construction, scheduled for completion mid-2023. Other scheduled works included a forensic mental health unit, expanded infirmary and high dependency unit, but these were yet to commence. Some sort of construction was expected to be ongoing until at least 2024. When complete, Casuarina’s capacity will be over 1,800 and it will be the largest prison in Australia.

Page last updated: October 23, 2023
150: Inspection of Casuarina Prison