This was the first analysis by the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services (‘the Office’) of the operation of work camps in Western Australia. The Office had long recommended increased investment in the camps, recognising their positive contribution to successful transition from custody to freedom.
An analysis of the effectiveness of the camps conducted in 2008 by the Department of Corrective Services (‘the Department’) resulted in the investment of $40 million in four new, purpose-build camps at Wyndham, Warburton, Dowerin and Roebourne.
Key to the economic viability of the new work camps has been the capacity of the Department to make full use of the expanded infrastructure. The two remote camps, Wyndham and Warburton, have suffered most in this regard, with the former rarely more than 50 per cent full, and the latter consistently running at less than 25 per cent occupancy. That level of under-usage called into question the accuracy of Departmental projections that underpinned the 2008 business cases. It also suggested further analysis was needed of the 2009 changes to the security classification process that have been shown to restrict access to minimum security status and work camp suitability.
Work camp placement has been considered particularly suitable for Aboriginal prisoners, the more so when those camps are located close to family and community. It was considered appropriate, therefore, to have Noongar prisoners over-represented at the Walpole and Dowerin camps, Goldfields and Central Desert prisoners at the Warburton camp, and Kimberley prisoners at the Wyndham camp, but that has not been the case.
Despite the inclusion of well-designed and equipped workshops at the new camps, it was disappointing to find limited accredited vocational training provided at the camps. The exception has been the Roebourne camp, where innovative training initiatives have recently emerged.