Areas that had improved or remained strong included:

  • Funding was secured in 2011 to construct a Town Work Camp at the front of RRP and to operate it for three years. This should open in early 2014 and will hopefully provide excellent opportunities for minimum security prisoners to engage in training and work to benefit the community.
  • Prisoners appeared to invest quite high levels of trust in a number of the staff and services in their environment especially the Prison Support Officer (PSO) and the Peer Support program which is facilitated by the PSO.
  • The health service was fully staffed with a Clinical Nurse Manager and another 3.5 FTE nursing positions. The team working and morale of staff in healthcare appeared to be good.
  • The involvement of BigHart, which worked with prisoners to express themselves through music and VSwans, which worked with prisoners in alliance with the Wickham Rovers has given a real lift to the cultural and sporting lives of prisoners.
  • At the time of the inspection, we found a young and energetic education team now in place who, despite their relative inexperience, had the required qualifications for their role. The promised second PEC for the work camp would also provide some local opportunities for backfill and succession planning.
  • DCS continued to outsource re-entry services for RRP to a local agency which auspiced various information sessions and lifeskills courses, lately including driver training, along with pre- and post-release support and Transport Options Program (TOPS). The Transition Manager within the prison also contributed to pre-release preparation through engaging various community agencies.
  • Following the 2010 inspection and intervention by head office, a communication plan was created which provided clear accountabilities for named managers and improved communication throughout the facility. Issues of conflict and bullying had also received some attention at both head office and local levels since the previous inspection and many acknowledged that that things have improved since 2010.
  • The pre-inspection survey found very high levels of perceived occupational safety: 95 per cent of staff survey respondents reported that they ‘mostly feel safe’ or ‘almost always feel safe.’
  • Roebourne staff were skilled at diffusing most problem situations through talking with the prisoner. This meant that there was little use of force or restraints.
  • Emergency exercises for the prison both live and desk top were up to date with the last live exercise conducted on the 27 June 2012 with another planned at the time of the inspection.

Areas of concern that required attention included the following:

  • RRP held significantly more prisoners than its design capacity, mainly through use of bunk beds. As identified in the 2010 inspection, many of the bunks lacked ladders and roll bars, and some had mesh tearing away from their frames. DCS has since failed at RRP to implement a commitment it made to audit all beds and replace or modify bunks to comply with the new standard.
  • Cells were densely occupied, with double bunks, people sleeping on the floors and were cluttered, lacking effective climate control, had cell doors in poor repair, had fittings that in some cases were in very poor condition, lacked adequate storage, had torn flyscreens and linoleum in need of replacement or repair.
  • Units lacked fitness equipment, other than that left in the enhanced privilege wing. The only recreation resources were table tennis tables on verandas and pool tables. There were no communal TVs.
  • Roebourne Regional Prison is Australia’s hottest prison. Many prisoners were greatly discomforted by these conditions, and extreme heat events may well be deleterious to the health of some. Climate control is needed in residential cells, day rooms in units, recreation spaces, and other program and activity spaces.
  • Prisoner orientation was less effective than it should be.
  • The Aboriginal Visitor Scheme (AVS) has functioned only for brief periods in the last three years and there were no visits since April 2013, which represents a significant loss of support from local Aboriginal people that prisoners trust, and of valuable community information about family, friends and deaths in the community.
  • The recreation infrastructure at Roebourne is wholly inadequate for safe year-round active participation; consideration should be given to establishing an indoor gymnasium/activity centre. The turf surface of the half-oval is unsafe and must be properly fixed.
  • The health centre is too small to allow all staff to consult with patients, was not professionally cleaned and patients had to wait in a small caged area outside the health centre.
  • Since 2010, GP services have declined from fifteen hours of general practice per fortnight to ten. The attendance rota of the GPs was also unfavourable, so it can several weeks for a prisoner to be seen. The prison did not have the facilities to provide dental services, so all appointments were undertaken under escort to South Hedland.
  • The rate of substance misuse in the prison was high, most prisoners had serious substance misuse problems, predominantly alcohol, but the prison lacked any in-reach or re-entry drug and alcohol services or group programs.
  • With the best of intentions, prison management implemented new processes to regulate receipt and use of funds from families, requiring submission and processing of a yellow Money Request Form before any funds from their family would be accepted. This cumbersome and complex system was perhaps the biggest source of discontent expressed to inspectors during the 2013 inspection.
  • Departmental policy has shifted dramatically to the point that participation in a funeral is now a rare privilege. Just three Roebourne prisoners were allowed to attend so far in 2013 at time of the inspection. The prison sought to deal sensitively with grieving prisoners, and attempted to mitigate the effect of refusals on prisoners in various ways.
  • In January 2013, a decision was taken to close the main women’s yard at Roebourne leaving only a residual capacity to receive and hold just five women on remand.
  • Women were then strictly segregated from the normal running of the prison with all movements outside their wing conducted under escort, phone calls made available only at certain times, all meals, support services, recreation and medicine were provided in the wing and contact with male prisoners only allowed through a structured visit on the weekend.
  • Women were also excluded from religions services held on Sunday and certain other occasions.
  • There was a marked deterioration in the availability of offender programs with only the Cognitive Brief Intervention 20 hour program now available. Only one third of Roebourne prisoners were likely to have their assessed program needs fulfilled.
  • Education and training were significantly impaired in the 12 months before the inspection due to major staffing disruptions, the closure of Millstream and DECCA, changes to Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF) rules which made it much harder to recruit tutors, staff shortages at Pilbara Institute and prison lockdowns due to severe custodial staff shortages.
  • At the time of the inspection, the Employment Coordinator role was not functioning effectively and the Prisoner Employment Program was at a standstill.
  • Roebourne Regional Prison had a recidivism rate significantly worse than the average WA prison. Some 44.1 per cent of Roebourne prisoners released between June 2010 to May 2011 returned within a two year period, either for new offences or following a parole cancellation.
  • Roebourne was required to make savings of approximately $650,000 in 2013/14 through a combination of vacancy management, overtime and non-salary costs.
  • The Department’s rental bill for Roebourne staff accommodation grew by 23 per cent between September 2011 and August 2013 despite substantial falls in market rentals during the same period.
  • Personal leave in 2012-13 was taken at a rate much higher than their annual entitlement. Together with secondment of staff to other positions and vacancies, the prison was heavily reliant on use of overtime to function, incurring significant impacts on staff wellbeing and on finances.
  • While management were aware of the risks associated with attempting to remove a would-be escapee if caught in the razor wire perimeter fence. The prison has a cage that can attach to a forklift for the purpose of fence retrievals but a forklift can’t be used in most parts of the perimeter due to uneven ground.
  • DCS had failed to develop a custodial plan for the Pilbara region, nor any forward planning for the future of the existing facility at Roebourne. Established in 1984, the current facility is facing major infrastructure deficiencies that will require a major investment if the life of the prison is to be extended for any period into the future.
Page last updated: April 16, 2014
89: Report of an announced inspection of Roebourne Regional Prison