Broome Regional Prison has been a concern for the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services for several years. The 2007 inspection report highlighted chronic overcrowding and an acute shortage of staff which was impacting service delivery and the treatment of the prisoners. Prisoners experienced a lack of staff engagement and reported feeling unsafe as a result. Complaints and grievances were being suppressed with prisoners being threatened with transfers south (out of country).
The resulting recommendations stressed that in order for the prison to progress it required guidance, support and close monitoring. Despite the Department supporting all recommendations made, it soon became evident that the prison was having difficulty making any progressing. In addition, the prison was struggling to manage a major infrastructure upgrade ($11.2 million) within the operational prison facility. Staffing remained well below full complement, straining the prison’s ability to maintain the security.
After the Inspector raised these concerns, the Department conducted an internal review of Broome’s operations. Despite repeated requests for a copy of the review report, the Department declined to comply and consequently an unannounced short follow-up inspection of Broome Regional Prison was undertaken in May 2008. This resulted in two new recommendations:
- That a reinvigorated management group be appointed to the prison with a clear brief from the Department of the priorities to take the prison forward.
- That the Department take the necessary steps to ensure that the prison is adequately staffed without being reliant on high levels of overtime.
The first was rejected by the Department, but the second was supported with the approval of an additional 12 FTE prison officers for the prison. In addition, enhanced recruitment and attraction strategies, including local recruitment and a significant rental subsidy of 50%, had been approved. Since this time, several further changes have impacted on prison operations, including:
- The completion of the $11.2 m refurbishment project.
- A new Superintendent appointed in 2010.
- The opening of a new prison in Derby.
- The closing of Bungarun Work Camp.
- Construction of a purpose built work camp in Wyndham.