Previous inspections conducted between 2002 and 2011 have consistently praised Albany as one of the state’s best performing prisons. During this inspection we noticed slippages in a number of areas. Despite this, Albany remained a good prison. The prison felt calmer than most metropolitan prisons and both prisoners and staff generally felt safe.
We found that the changing prisoner demographic had influenced the general temperature of the prison. The minimum-security Indonesian prisoners had left and the prison was operating appropriately as a maximum-security facility. It was our finding that the respectful relationships observed in 2011 between staff and prisoners had deteriorated and that relational security was now a much lower priority.
We found that while the change in leadership had created some initial difficulties (as one might have expected after a long period of stability), this had eased by the time of the inspection.
One of the measures imposed by the new prison management in response to large scale budget cuts was to cap daily overtime shifts. While the strategy had proved successful in ensuring that the prison adhered to its budget, there were a number of negative flow-on effects. These adversely impacted prisoner access to rehabilitation and increased the number of prisoners with nothing to do except to hang around their unit. Very few prisoners like to be idle, and idle hands tend to escalate risk. Unfortunately, too many prisoners were consistently observed sitting around in units with nothing to do.
Disappointingly, inequality between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal prisoners at Albany remained a serious issue, with a disproportionate lack of Aboriginal prisoners in skilled employment. However it was particularly pleasing that Albany had implemented a strategy to prioritise the recruitment of Aboriginal prisoners into traineeships. At the time of the inspection, 35 per cent of traineeships were held by Aboriginal prisoners.
Overall Albany had slipped back somewhat from previous years but was still a good prison. With a little effort from all staff and management, and a continued focus on what made the ‘Albany way’ such a long term success, this slippage can be reversed.