- Both the Department of Corrective Services (‘the Department’) and the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services (‘the Office’) have consistently supported the work camp process.
- Prior to 2011, work camps in Western Australia were located in re-purposed facilities at little cost. Camp occupancy was typically limited to twelve prisoners, and the overall number of work camp places hovered around 100. The old camps consistently operated at or near capacity.
- A Departmental review of work camps in 2008 found they contributed to the rehabilitation and socialisation of suitable prisoners, and provided significant benefit to host communities through ongoing involvement in civic construction and maintenance projects.
- Following the Departmental review, funding was allocated to construct four purpose-built camps at a cost of $40 million. The new camps were opened at Wyndham (June 2011), Warburton (August 2011), Dowerin (February 2012) and Roebourne (June 2014). The old work camp at Walpole has continued to operate.
- The high establishment costs associated with the new camps was to be off-set by extended infrastructure life, low maintenance costs, and increased benefit to local communities flowing from a 25 per cent increase in prisoner occupancy at the camps.
- With the Western Australian prison system well over capacity, it is vital that all assets are fully utilised. While the Dowerin camp has operated at near capacity, Wyndham and Warburton have not, consistently achieving only 50 per cent and 25 per cent occupancy respectively. The newest work camp at Roebourne has rarely achieved a 60 per cent fill.
- The reason for the under-utilisation of the camps has been attributed to a lack of suitable, minimum security prisoners. Either the 2008 business cases supporting the new camps were flawed, or the 2009 changes to the security classification process contributed to a reduction of the overall number of minimum security prisoners. Subsequent tightening of security procedures following high-profile escapes in 2014 has further restricted access to the camps.
- The inspection report repeated the Office view that work camps remain a valuable component of corrective services, contributing strongly to reduced recidivism. The report further recommended the development of work camps for female prisoners and juvenile detainees, and continued investment in work camps for male prisoners.
- The Departmental announcement of a review of the security classification process to increase the flow of prisoners to minimum security was welcomed in the report, as was a continued focus on accredited vocational skills training at the camps.
Page last updated: April 13, 2015