The inspection found a sound management team overseeing delivery of services in trying circumstances. Construction of the adjacent new prison facility had required closure of the oval and removal of workshops, in turn reducing recreation, employment and training opportunities. Despite those disruptions, staff morale was high, infrastructure was well maintained, and the majority Goldfields/Ngaanyatjarra Aboriginal prisoner population declared a preference for Eastern Goldfields over all other prisons.
The new prison is scheduled to open in Quarter 3, 2015. At the time of the inspection, Departmental delays finalising the staffing model and budget were hampering the capacity for local management to plan for transition to the new site. Despite clear local understanding of the importance of securing a high proportion of goldfields and Aboriginal staff for the expanded prison, strategies to that end were lagging. It was however progressing towards refining operational procedures so that appropriate change could be in place well before transition.
Health services had improved since the 2010 inspection, and the education campus continued to provide appropriate opportunities and a venue for safe and pro-social gender mixing. It was unfortunate that the Department had been unable to provide therapeutic programs to meet the particular criminogenic needs of Goldfields/Ngaanyatjarra prisoners, despite the high recidivism rate amongst those groups. Transitional services for minimum security prisoners were well integrated with community providers, but capacity to assist higher security prisoners was limited by short, end-of-term placement at the prison.
Eastern Goldfields did value an understanding of remote and regional Aboriginal lifestyle to tailor services appropriately, but risk was identified around reliance on older staff for their accumulated experience. Many were approaching retirement, and that, compounded by the need for a greatly expanded workforce at the new facility, suggested development of specific, Goldfields/Ngaanyatjarra cultural training capability.
The work camp at Warburton Community, 900km east of Kalgoorlie, had been opened in August 2012 with a capacity of 24. Despite the positive rehabilitative effect of release from work camps, Warburton had rarely achieved more than 50 per cent occupancy. Changes to the security classification process in 2009 had not delivered improvement to the capacity of Aboriginal prisoners to move through the system, and achieve work camp status. The future of the Warburton work camp was not guaranteed.