This is a report of the Office’s first formal inspection of West Kimberley Regional Prison in Derby. It also examines the use and future of Broome Regional Prison, which was marked for closure at the end of 2015.
West Kimberley opened in November 2012 after much planning around the development of a philosophy of meeting the needs of its local population client group – predominantly regional and remote Kimberley prisoners.
The $150 million, 120-bed facility was built as a mixed security (maximum, medium and minimum) prison to accommodate both male and female prisoners.
To help achieve its objective of meeting the needs of the community, local recruitment was a priority for the Department. The management and staff were driven by five key guiding principles that were developed in consultation with local Aboriginal Groups and leaders:
- custodial proximity to land and family
- cultural responsibilities
- spiritual relationship to land, sea and waterways
- kinship and family responsibilities
- community responsibilities
In contrast to the extensive planning and consultation around the development and opening of West Kimberley, Broome Regional Prison had been mired in doubt, confusion and a communication vacuum since the announcement of its downsizing and eventual closure slated for the end of 2015.
The prison population had been reduced to all but enough minimum security male prisoners to keep ‘essential services’ operational, short term higher security prisoners on remand to appear in court, and occasionally one or two female prisoners held for a variety of different reasons.
Consequently services had been pared back to a bare minimum and staff that remained on site had no idea about how long they might be required at the prison or where their futures lay.
The local Broome community and other justice services that relied on the prison, such as courts and police, also had no idea how they would operate if and when the prison closed for good.