Women still form a relatively small proportion of Western Australia’s prison population but their numbers have grown quickly, and at a much faster rate than male numbers. At the time of writing, there were 486 women in prison, a staggering increase of 40 per cent in five years (in July 2009 there were 350). The number of male prisoners has increased by 15 per cent over the same period (from 4120 to 4748).
Greenough Regional Prison has always accommodated a number of women , usually around 25 and historically in Unit Five, a claustrophobic, confined and run down area. In 2012, in response to a crisis of numbers at Bandyup Women’s Prison, a newer larger unit, Unit Four, was converted to the use of women prisoners. The women already at Greenough were moved into Unit Four in late November 2012 and Unit Five became a male unit. Women began being transferred from other prisons, especially Bandyup and Roebourne Regional Prison, from late January 2013.
Unit Four is located within the same perimeter fence as the rest of the prison, close to male accommodation blocks, the oval and a number of other amenities. It is separated from the male accommodation areas by a mesh fence topped by razor wire. A privacy screen was added to the fence line adjacent to the male prisoners’ accommodation, obscuring the view in and out of the women’s unit. This adds some degree of visual, but not aural, privacy.
Additional supporting infrastructure, in the form of demountables, was added to allow for the provision of education, programs, and other services to be delivered to the women separately. The Unit’s grounds also include a basketball/netball court, some isometric gym equipment, and a pleasant garden area. However it is not entirely self-contained, and this generates some significant issues.
When Unit Four is fully occupied, it has a total capacity of 69. Therefore, compared with Unit Five, it offers a gain of up to 44 beds for women. Importantly though, the new Women’s Precinct offered an opportunity to do much more for women being held at Greenough than had been done in the past.
This report provides a review of services for women prisoners at Greenough based on an on-site inspection in August 2013. It also provides a thematic overview of the state of women’s imprisonment in Western Australia, and the historical context which brought about the need for the creation of the Greenough Women’s Precinct.