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.

Since 2017 there have been almost 300 inquest findings delivered by the Western Australian State Coroner. Forty-four of these relate to people held in the custody of the Department of Justice. Within the findings, a Coroner can make recommendations which are centred on the administration of justice aimed at preventing similar deaths happening in the future. Thirty-five recommendations have been made to the Department regarding deaths in custody, of which it has supported 31.

The Department tracks its response to coronial recommendations and ensures that there is enough and defensible evidence to endorse their completion and/or closure. Further governance mechanisms include reporting recommendation tracking and closures through internal risk management and audit processes.

On 11 November 2021, the Minster for Corrective Services endorsed the following Terms of Reference directing the Inspector of Custodial Services to undertake a review into the Department’s performance in responding to coronial recommendations arising from inquiries into deaths in custody. The was in accordance with Section 17(2)(b) of the Inspector of Custodial Services Act 2003.

Review terms of reference:

  1. Does the Department of Justice implement recommendations made by the Western Australian Coroner appropriately?
  2. How effectively does the Department of Justice monitor its continued compliance with the recommendations?


A timeline for this Directed Review is in development.

Confinement, separation or segregation of prisoners is commonly used as a tool to manage and safeguard the good order and security of a prison. These terms are often used interchangeably and at times without clear definition. In Western Australia, the Prisons Act 1981 (the Act) specifically allows for confinement or separate confinement under three circumstances, including:

  • s 36(3) – the Superintendent may issue orders necessary for the good government, good order, and security of the prison
  • s 43 – separate confinement for the purposes of maintaining good government, good order, and security of the prison
  • s 82 – separate confinement as a penalty imposed following a disciplinary hearing or conviction

While the Act does not explicitly define separate confinement, both s 43 and s 82 provide the parameters for such confinement, including a minimum of one hour each day for the taking of air and exercise, and for other activities as directed by the chief executive officer. Other activities typically include time out of cell for showering, cleaning the cell, making phone calls and taking other entitlements.

The length of confinement can vary depending on the circumstances and the legislative authority under which a prisoner is confined. Separate confinement under s 43 cannot exceed 30 days. Punishment by confinement can occur for up to 28 days, with 48-hour periods of non-separation required after every seven days of confinement. The Department of Justice’s policy states confinement under s 36(3) ‘must end as soon as possible and should not, unless necessity or emergency require, continue for more than is necessary’. The policy suggests between 48 and 72 hours.

There are also a range of policy-based confinement options for prison management to consider. For instance, prisoners displaying poor behaviour may be regressed to ‘close supervision’, which may include up to 14 days of confinement to ensure the good order and security of a prison.

The ‘Nelson Mandela Rules’ define solitary confinement as confinement of prisoners for 22 hours or more a day without meaningful human contact. It defines prolonged solitary confinement as solitary confinement that exceeds 15 days. The Guiding Principles for Corrections in Australia does not specifically prohibit prolonged solitary confinement but requires prisoners to be managed under the least restrictive conditions, and for a person’s mental health to be recognised and considered where confinement is continued.

This review will examine the use of confinement and management regimes within Western Australia since January 2017.

Review Terms of Reference:

  1. Is the use of confinement and management regimes transparent and accountable?
  2. Are policies and practices on the use of confinement and management regimes consistent with legislation?
  3. Is the Department effectively managing prisoners placed into confinement or on a management regime?
  4. Are staff resources and training adequate to effectively manage the needs of prisoners placed in confinement or on a management regime?

The report is expected to be available to the public in September 2022.

Page last updated: 18 Jan 2022

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