Factors such as how close a facility is for family and friends to visit, health needs and program availability will have some impact on where prisoners serve their sentences. However, the primary factor and essential starting point is the person’s security rating. This will be one of the following:
- Maximum security: prisoners for whom high conditions of security are necessary and for whom escape must be made very difficult.
- Medium security: prisoners who cannot be trusted in open conditions, but present a low to moderate risk of escape and/or a moderate risk to the safety of the public in the event of an escape.
- Minimum security: prisoners who require a low degree of supervision and control within the prison and who can be reasonably trusted in open conditions. Some of these prisoners will meet the eligibility criteria for external program activity and work camp placements in accordance with section 95 of the Prisons Act 1981.
Prisons as well as prisoners are classified by reference to their security ratings. The basic rule is that prisoners cannot be placed in lower security facilities than their rating demands. However, there is no prohibition on housing prisoners in higher security facilities than their rating demands.
It follows that minimum security prisons can only hold minimum security prisoners. Western Australia has three purely minimum security prisons for men (Karnet, Pardelup and Wooroloo), and one for women (Boronia).
Four other prisons are best designated as ‘pure’ maximum given their design, philosophy, operational procedures and lack of section 95 activities. These are Bandyup Women’s Prison and the male prisons of Albany, Casuarina and Hakea. However, all of these prisons house a combination of prisoners with different security ratings.
The only prison designed as a ‘pure’ medium security facility is Acacia Prison for men. This cannot hold maximum security prisoners but does hold significant numbers of minimum security men. It, too, does not have section 95 activities.
The remaining prisons – all of which are regional – are best described as multi-purpose. Bunbury Regional Prison is a male only prison. It is predominantly a medium security prison with a number of maximum security beds. However, it also has a ‘Pre-release Unit’ which generally houses 100-110 minimum security prisoners.
Greenough, Eastern Goldfields, Roebourne and Broome prisons are all mixed gender and mixed-security prisons. Greenough mainly houses medium security prisoners but also has a minimum security unit located outside the main perimeter fence and has a limited maximum security capacity. Roebourne, Eastern Goldfields and Broome prisons are primarily minimum security but, again, have capacity to house some higher-rated prisoners. The new West Kimberley Regional Prison in Derby is also mixed gender and mixed security.
In June 2009, the Department of Corrective Services introduced a modified assessment and classification system for determining a prisoner’s security rating. This new system drew heavily on a multi-agency review led by this Office. At the time, the Inspector had concluded that too many Western Australian prisoners were being ‘over-classified’. It was considered possible to reduce the number of maximum security prisoners and to increase the number of medium and minimum security prisoners without risking either prison security or community safety. The Department implemented many of the Review’s recommendations, which were expected to result in a significant decrease in the number of prisoners rated maximum security and provide a corresponding increase in medium and minimum security ratings.