The Department recognises that emergency preparedness is a crucially important topic for every correctional institution, noting that a major institutional crisis can be overwhelming and almost interminable. Given this acknowledgement it would be expected that each institution in the Department would have undertaken appropriate planning for emergency events and have undertaken extensive training. However this was not the case in Banksia Hill.
The Emergency Management Plan (EMP) for Banksia Hill was last updated in May 2011. Although there is a departmental requirement for facility plans to be updated annually this had not occurred. In particular, it is a clear oversight that the Emergency Management Plan has not been updated since the amalgamation which has made Banksia Hill the only juvenile detention facility in WA. There had been no head office oversight to ensure this plan was updated, even though there is a quality assurance plan in place for Community Youth Justice and a security assessment in November 2012 indicated an examination of emergency management procedures at Banksia Hill would be undertaken. The result of this oversight is that there was no contingency plan in place if Banksia Hill needed to be evacuated.
The EMP stated that, in the event of evacuation, detainees would be taken to Rangeview and set out in some detail which route would be taken and how security and safety would be preserved. This plan was totally unviable. At the time of the riot, Rangeview had become Wandoo: a minimum security young adult male prison with a limited capacity of only 80. To complicate matters further, Wandoo is privately operated.
Banksia Hill is now a mixed gender facility. After the riot, the male detainees were taken to Hakea Prison. Banksia Hill’s EMP still contains no plans for the evacuation of female detainees and it is far from clear where they could be readily accommodated.
Banksia Hill is not alone in having an out of date and unworkable evacuation plan. Bandyup Women’s Prison, a maximum security facility, houses upwards of 270 prisoners. The only other dedicated women’s prison is Boronia Pre-release Centre, a small low security facility. Bandyup’s current evacuation plan is to take the women to the Corrective Services Academy, the former Nyandi minimum security women’s prison. At most the Academy might provide a temporary holding place, but even this is doubtful.
Evacuation plans for male prisons are better developed, and the fact that there are several male prisons makes this easier. However, it is pointless at best and foolhardy at worst to have unworkable evacuation plans in EMPs. As shown by the events of 20 January, on-the-spot decisions needed to be made about where to house detainees (particularly female detainees) in the aftermath of the riot. Such decisions are of concern to the government and the public and should be the subject of well thought-out plans that are readily operationalised in the event of an emergency.
In evidence to the Supreme Court, the then Commissioner said that the new units at Hakea and Casuarina Prisons were always part of a ‘specific contingency plan’:
Was that by accident or is there some form of plan in….?
Look, it’s not by accident in the sense that the units 11 and 12, and we’ll probably come to that very shortly, when they were constructed and when they were placed within Hakea, as the same applied to Casuarina, it was specifically for two purposes, one to deal with the prisoner population but secondly as a contingency plan should anything ever happen of this type, nature. So the fact that what was fortunate is that the unit 5 prisoners had been moved to the new unit I think only a matter of days before this incident took place.
Can you describe to us the decision-making process that led to the use of Hakea units 11 and 12?
Sure. Coming back, first of all, to the original concept of units 11 and 12 and for similar units at Casuarina Prison, they were designed, specifically designed and placed so they could become a contingency plan should we lose a unit or a site, whether that be a female site or a young offenders’ site, whatever, so that was a specific contingency plan so, first of all, it lends itself to be that type of facility in the first instance. We then looked – and there has been some evidence given about various meetings. There were numerous meetings with numerous people, high-level meetings, staff meetings, considering every possibility that we could look at to see what was the best option for us.
However, it cannot reasonably be said that there was a ‘specific contingency plan’:
- No such role for the units at Hakea was articulated until well after the incident. It emerged in response to suggestions that the Department had been ‘lucky’ that there had been units available at Hakea and that there had been a lack of planning.
- The Department was unable to provide to the Inquiry any evidence of planning for the new units to undertake a contingency role for women or children.
- The management teams at Banksia Hill, Hakea and Bandyup do not appear to have turned their minds to how Hakea might hold women or children and it is, in the Inspector’s opinion, ill-equipped to do so.
- Although the Hakea site lent itself well to the construction of new units, the Department has consistently rejected the view that the units should have been planned to meet specific needs or roles. It has stated that the new units were simply to provide more beds.
- Decisions taken with respect to perimeter security at Hakea militate against the use of the new units as a contingency for women and children, who need to be separated from male prisoners. The new units were constructed outside the old perimeter wall. This offered the Department an opportunity to make them semi-autonomous, and to inject flexibility, by retaining the old wall and constructing adequate access points between the old and new areas. Instead, it was decided to remove the old wall and to replace it with a chain link management fence, with access through a gate. This makes adequate separation of children and women extremely problematic.
In addition Banksia Hill is required to undertake a minimum of six emergency management training exercises each year. At least one of these should be a live simulation rather than a desktop exercise. During 2012 only one desktop exercise and two live drills were conducted within the youth custodial estate falling well short of requirements. In addition, only seven custodial staff attended the three exercises as the opportunity to participate in this training is restricted to who is available on shift. Given Banksia Hill has an operational staff level of close to 200, this means that very few people have been involved in this type of training in the last year. One staff member reported he had not been involved in a simulation exercise since the late 1990s.
Less than a quarter of respondents to the staff survey for the Inquiry, felt that they had adequate training to prepare them for the riot. Staff consistently reported having little, or no, training in emergency management and little, or no, training to prepare them for the riot.