Casuarina’s focus on security, while additionally supporting reintegration, specialised care, and Aboriginal prisoners is a difficult balancing act. Under the pressure of overcrowding and insufficient resourcing and infrastructure, the prison struggled to balance its maximum security role with other specialised responsibilities.
The Department had improved Casuarina’s provision of single-cell accommodation. However, infrastructure remained in need of improvement, including the kitchen, medical facility, infirmary and industries workshops. In particular, this Office noted an opportunity to provide specialist mental health facilities.
Staffing shortages were a key cause of limited services in areas including industries and education. This Office recommended that the Department should provide sufficient staffing levels to cover all of the prison’s duties.
Casuarina suffered from chronic prisoner unemployment and under-employment. This was particularly true for Aboriginal prisoners. Aboriginal prisoners were also disproportionately classified at higher security ratings and were failing to progress to lower security facilities where greater reintegration support is available. This Office recommended that the Department should review the security risk assessment instrument to ensure equality of progression outcomes.
Valuable initiatives for Aboriginal prisoners including the Red Dust Healing and Drumbeat programs, and domestic violence discussion groups needed funding and support.
Casuarina continued to hold excessive numbers of displaced Aboriginal men, and had redesignated the displaced Aboriginal prisoners’ accommodation as a security facility.
Effective representation of concerns and meaningful communication with management were relevant for prisoners, staff and families. However, one issue was the lack of representation for the different groups of Aboriginal prisoners on the peer support team. Another issue was the lack of effective engagement between prison management and prisoner groups. The prison needed to establish a representative prisoner forum. There was also an opportunity to improve communication between prison management and family members of prisoners.