The health risks of smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke are well known. In Australia, tobacco use is the leading risk factor for disease and premature death, and it is estimated that smoking could be linked to one in eight deaths. Previous estimates of mortality rates have underestimated or failed to consider Aboriginal populations with new research showing that smoking causes half of all deaths in older Aboriginal people.

As community knowledge of the health risks has increased, smoking rates have decreased. However, this is not reflected in prison populations where almost 8 out of 10 Western Australian prisoners self-identify as smokers.

Smoking has been banned in most Australian prisons, except in the Australian Capital Territory and Western Australia. In 2008, Western Australian banned smoking in prison buildings, but prisoners and staff are still permitted to smoke in outdoor areas. A full ban has never been implemented.

This review will examine prisoner smoking trends, and incidents related to smoking including stand overs, bullying, and gambling. It will also examine the implementation of smoking bans by other jurisdictions, the implications of these bans, and any plans in Western Australia to manage or ban smoking in prisons.

Review terms of reference:

  1. Are the risks for people who smoke in prison effectively managed, including by offering quit programs to those wanting to cease smoking?
  2. Are the risks for people who do not smoke in prison adequately mitigated without a full ban in place?
  3. Does the Department of Justice have a forward plan to manage smoking in prisons including effective procedures which address issues of bullying, stand overs, and gambling?

A report on this review is anticipated to be available to the public in November 2021.

The demand for dental services in custody is high. Prisoners generally have poorer oral health than those in the wider community. Many socioeconomic and lifestyle factors contribute to this, particularly substance use and misuse. People in custody are more likely to come from socially excluded or disadvantaged backgrounds with high levels of unemployment. This often accompanies tooth decay-inducing diets, lack of oral health education, and a low perception of oral health.

In Western Australia, prisoners can receive routine dental examinations and treatment of a type that is available to the general public through the public health system. Any prosthetic and orthodontic treatments are at the prisoner’s own expense. However, despite these provisions, there are many challenges to delivering dental services in prisons. This includes the high number of urgent or emergency cases, staff resourcing, and security considerations. These challenges can be compounded by prisoner anxiety and understanding about dental services.

Review terms of reference:

  1. Do arrangements for the provision of dental services meet demand?
  2. Are the challenges in dental service delivery, and the barriers to accessing services, effectively identified and managed?

A report on this review is anticipated to be available to the public in October 2021.

Some people in custody may require protection from other prisoners. In Western Australia, prison administrators can put prisoners on protection, or prisoners can apply or declare a need for protection if they:

  • are threatened by another prisoner
  • are a possible target for vengeance or retribution due to their offending or activities inside or outside custody
  • give or have given information to prison officers, police or evidence in court concerning other prisoners, relatives, or associates
  • demonstrate that protection is necessary.

The number of prisoners requiring protection has increased considerably in the last decade. On 1 January 2010, there were just 85 people in Western Australian prisons requiring protection. By 1 January 2021 this number had risen to 663, almost an eight-fold increase. Over the same timeframe the prison population increased by approximately 40 per cent.

With burgeoning population numbers, it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage these prisoners. Most protection prisoners are placed at Acacia, Casuarina, and Hakea prisons. Our oversight of these facilities has found that protection prisoners receive unequal access to services like education and recreation when compared to other mainstream prisoners. And that it can be difficult to meet the legislative requirements to offer daily visits to protection prisoners on remand.

This review will examine how the Department of Justice manages people in custody requiring protection, and whether adequate plans account for the increasing number of protection prisoners.

Review Terms of Reference:

  1. Is the Department effectively managing people in custody who require protection?
  2. Does the Department appropriately identify and review which prisoners need protection?
  3. Is there adequate planning in place for the growing number of protection prisoners?

A report on this review is anticipated to be available to the public in April 2022.

Family and domestic violence (FDV) refers to violence between family members, including current or former intimate partners, children and other relatives (including kinship relationships). FDV can include multiple types of abuses including:

  • physical violence
  • sexual violence
  • psychological and emotional abuse
  • financial abuse
  • coercive control

Western Australia Police Force data shows that family related offences (assault and threatening behaviour) have increased 18.9 per cent in the past five years to a total of 20,0885 offences in the 2020-2021 financial year. Furthermore, as of July 2021, a total of 1,033 distinct prisoners in Western Australia had a total of 1,314 Family Violence Restraining Orders (FVRO’s) against them. Since the introduction of the ‘Serial Family Violence Offender’ declaration came into effect as of 1 January 2021, 44 offenders have received this classification.

Adults in custody can be in custody for FDV related offences or they may be victims or witnesses of FDV and in prison for other offences. Similarly, young people held at Banksia Hill Detention Centre may be FDV offenders, or they can be survivors, and witnesses in detention for other offences.

This review will examine the supports, including programs, psychological services, and transitional care available to adult FDV offenders and survivors of FDV. It will also examine the supports available to young people in detention, as FDV offenders, survivors, and witnesses.

Review terms of reference:

  1. Does the Department provide adult perpetrators of FDV adequate support to help address their offending, including programs, psychological support, and transitional through care?
  2. Does the Department appropriately identify adult survivors of FDV in order to be supported while they are in custody?
  3. Do young people in custody, who are witnesses, survivors, or perpetrators of FDV get appropriate access to FDV supports?

A report on this review is anticipated to be available to the public in May 2022.

Page last updated: 16 Aug 2021

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