The Inspector identified five main aspects to the transition of Bunbury Regional Prison from the first inspection almost 10 years previously at which point there was the very real possibility that the prison would close completely, to the overcrowded situation in 2011.
- Prisoner numbers – at the time of the inspection around 70 per cent of prisoners were required to share cells which were never intended to be shared, and the prison had an occupancy rate of around 145 per cent.
- Prisoner profile – the type of offender incarcerated at Bunbury had changed over the five years preceding the inspection. Whereas Bunbury had housed a critical mass of sex offenders, in 2011 this cohort had shifted to include proportionately fewer sex offenders and more offenders convicted of violent offences. Further, Bunbury also faced the challenge of housing more elderly prisoners.
- Historically, one of Bunbury’s main strengths was its ability to operate a hierarchical regime under which prisoners could earn the privilege of living in better quality accommodation. However, this had been eroded because of the pressure of numbers.
- Pre-release Unit – this, whilst philosophically a good concept, never achieved its potential due to the overcrowding which saw the PRU double-bunked with a population of 108 rather than the design of 72. This also meant that prisoners were accommodated in the pre-release facility who were nowhere near their release date.
- Management changes – whilst the management team at Bunbury at the time of the inspection in 2011 was strong, the most senior managers were not substantive post-holders.
Overall, the inspection found that Bunbury Regional Prison continued to perform well and this was a tribute to staff and managers. However, the areas of concern identified during the inspection did pose risks to the continued stable functioning of the prison. The issues identified were not considered irreparable, but certainly did require action. The Inspector noted in his Overview to the inspection report that he was pleased that the Department accepted most of the recommendations that emerged from this inspection and that several of these were already being actively progressed.