After a difficult start, Greenough’s female prisoners have settled into the new unit well. It generally has a sense of calm, particularly compared with the loud, frenetic and stressed environment of Bandyup.
The infrastructure for women prisoners at Greenough represents a marked improvement. Services and opportunities for rehabilitation have also improved in several areas. The most marked areas of improvement are:
- Women, now being 25 per cent of the population not 10 per cent, have a stronger place in the prison;
- Increased focus on women’s issues by the local management team;
- Improved education and employment opportunities;
- Improvements to women’s support services; and
- Introduction of an Integrated Offender Management to look holistically at the needs of individual prisoners.
Areas for improvement include:
- Health services;
- Arrangements for visits and family contact (especially for women who are a long way from home); and
- Programs to address offending behaviour.
Nonetheless, the numbers of female prisoners in Western Australia has continued to rise, and the number of beds available in the female estate remains insufficient. As this report explains, action to add new capacity for women was clearly needed by 2008 and absolutely critical by 2009–2010. However, women barely featured in the state’s massive prison expansion program of 2009–2013. Leaving aside the installation of double bunks in single cells, the Department oversaw the installation of well over 1,500 additional beds for male prisoners in the last five years. This new accommodation straddles all security ratings and most of the state.
However, apart from the women’s unit at the West Kimberley Regional Prison, which opened in late 2012, the women have had to make do with the unwanted leftovers of the male estate. Not only that, whilst shared cells at male prisons now at least have double bunk beds installed, women at Bandyup have continued to be forced to sleep on the floor.
New prisons take many years to move from the drawing board to operation and there are no firm plans for a new women’s prison. The Department’s new leadership has inherited a serious problem and now faces the unenviable prospect of trying to find places for female prisoners. Unfortunately, this is likely to come at the cost of re-allocating a high performing part of the male prison system to women.