This was the fourth announced inspection of Bunbury Regional Prison (BRP) and the first inspection of the Pre-release Unit (PRU), the State’s newest minimum security facility for males. The PRU is co-located with Bunbury Regional Prison and is managed by the same Superintendent as BRP.
BRP has traditionally been a stable prison environment. The Inspector, in his Overview to the first inspection report (December 2002) observed that the prison was ‘performing well – not without blemish, but competently, professionally and purposefully’. At that time, however, there was a very real possibility that the prison would close due to a general fall in prisoner numbers, both across the board and in particular in the public prisons with the opening of the privately-operated Acacia Prison. This Office was strongly opposed to the notion of closing regional prisons, ‘unless it be for the purposes of replacement and improvement’. Needless to say the prison was not closed at that time.
The second inspection of Bunbury Regional Prison occurred in December 2005. Whilst this was a scheduled announced inspection, the decision to proceed with this inspection was made very carefully in the light of the events of March 2005. On 16 March 2005, a prisoner took the Manager of Education Services hostage in the education centre at Bunbury Regional Prison and seriously assaulted her. Later that same year a senior member of the uniformed staff group at the prison committed suicide. The inspection in December of that year proceeded not to re-visit these events but rather to review the systems that were in place to respond to the needs of those affected by these tragic events and to assess whether the quality of prisoner services had been adequately maintained.
This inspection found that, despite the problems faced in the recent past, the prison had addressed a number of the issues raised in the 2002 inspection report and was looking forward to its future. The most pressing finding of this 2005 inspection not surprisingly related to staffing and human resource problems that were destabilising prison operations. The first recommendation in that inspection report, therefore, was the development of a human resources master plan for the prison and the implementation of a change management process, a recommendation that was supported by the Department.
In August 2008, this Office conducted its third inspection of Bunbury Regional Prison. The prison climate at the time was heating up with prisoner numbers creeping steadily upwards across the state. Within this context, Bunbury Regional Prison was struggling to satisfy demand for rehabilitative programs, in particular programs designed to target violent offending and culturally specific programs for the Aboriginal prisoners. The prison had faced various challenges to its operations during the three year period between inspections, most notably an ongoing capital works program which saw the construction of a new, state of the art health centre within the main prison and a 72 bed minimum security pre-release unit (PRU) outside the prison fence but situated adjacent to the prison. The PRU was opened in November 2008, just months after this third inspection.
The fourth and most recent inspection of Bunbury Regional Prison took place in July 2011. This was also the first inspection of the Pre-release Unit (PRU). The inspection found that, although the prison was relatively stable, it was struggling in some areas due to the increased prisoner numbers. Staff/prisoner interactions were less positive than at previous inspections; the hierarchical management system was suffering due to the overcrowding; there were too many officers off on workers’ compensation and too much personal leave and overtime usage; and the PRU had not been able to realise its true identity as a pre-release facility due to being overcrowded only a few months after first opening.
The fifth inspection of Bunbury Regional Prison is scheduled to occur in November 2014.