The overall conclusion of this Report is broadly consistent with the findings of earlier inspections: the prison generally goes about its business in an efficient way, free of major controversies and major incidents. However, it is in the midst of some very significant changes, including infrastructure upgrades, management changes and the influx of a larger number of female prisoners. These developments pose some real challenges, opportunities and potential risks.
Areas identified for improvement throughout this report include food (quality and quantity), employment opportunities and arrangements for visits. Education services struggle against inadequate facilities and there are significant gaps in the delivery of programs to address offending behaviour. Opportunities for recreation are mixed, with female prisoners being seriously disadvantaged. The opportunities and incentives offered to minimum security male prisoners also need to be expanded.
The number of women in prison has been rising at a markedly faster rate than men, and yet virtually all of the investment in new accomodation has targeted male prisoners. The Department has put a positive light on its decision to house more women at Greenough, describing Unit 4 as an appropriate option and indicating that it believes that the prison would be a good location for purpose built female units in the future. The new facilities in Unit 4 are clearly far better physically than old unit, and the presence of a larger number of women should allow more services to be offered, including programs, education and recreation. However, there are some very significant outstanding issues and questions:
- Relatively low numbers of female prisoners from the Geraldton/Mid-West region;
- The Department’s decision to close the women’s unit at Roebourne Regional Prison;
- The logistical requirements of holding up to 69 women (a number close to the populations of the state’s smallest prisons, Boronia and Pardelup) within a male prison; and
- Housing women of all security ratings within one section of a larger prison.
The Inspector therefore announced that he intended to conduct a specific inspection of the progress of the new women’s unit at Greenough within the following six to nine months of the release of this report.