This review raises many questions regarding the extent to which the profile of prisoner accommodation in Western Australia matches the profile of prisoners created by the new offender classification system.
The model has met its projected outcomes in terms of the flow through of non-Aboriginal prisoners to minimum security. However, Aboriginal prisoners, and especially Aboriginal women, have not achieved minimum security classifications to anything like the projected extent. Indeed, despite a significant rise in the number of Aboriginal people in the prison system as a whole, there has been virtually no increase in the number at minimum security. By contrast, the number of non-Aboriginal people at minimum security has increased sharply.
The differential outcomes with respect to minimum security ratings for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people are alarming. It beggars belief that the objective qualifications of Aboriginal people to be at minimum security could have plummeted in three years at the same time as the qualifications of non-Aboriginal people to be at minimum security improved sharply. While there may be some peripheral profile changes, they simply cannot explain changes of this magnitude. It was also never anticipated that the changes would lead to such significantly different impacts.
It is more likely that there are specific factors built into the assessment and classification tool which have created the uneven impact. Issues which need further examination include: (i) whether the changes to parole which occurred in 2009 have contributed to the outcomes in unintended ways and (ii) whether too much weight is placed on the age of the prisoner.
In addition, this review found work camps for minimum security male prisoners have been seriously under-utilised. There had been some signs of improvement in recent months but this review has suggested that the problem is only likely to be addressed if the pool of eligible prisoners can be increased. This will require addressing the issues of Aboriginal under-representation at minimum security. Consideration should also be given to removing some of the current policy restrictions on work camp placements, taking account of risk to the community. Levels of other external activities under section 95 vary between prisons but there is clearly a significant level of unmet demand. Female prisoners, especially those located at Bandyup Women’s prison, are especially adversely affected.