Bunbury Regional Prison (Bunbury) is a mixed classification facility, receiving maximum, medium and minimum-security prisoners, including both remand and sentenced prisoners. It has a significant responsibility in preparing prisoners for release, and is a major producer of vegetables for the prison estate. Its industries workshops are very productive, and it is also one of the most active facilities when it comes to delivering rehabilitative programs.
Bunbury is actually two prisons. The main original prison is the maximum/medium-security facility. The newer minimum-security Pre-release Unit (PRU) opened in 2008, and was designed to accommodate prisoners nearing the end of their sentences. The prison’s original minimum-security section (Unit 5) closed when the PRU opened. Unit 5 could hold 37 prisoners.
Both sites are fully self-contained prisons, each with their own infrastructure and services to support the prison population residing there. Both have also been through significant change since the PRU opened nine years ago, manifested primarily in rapid and significant increases in prisoner numbers.
We have previously found Bunbury to be a well-performing prison and have been impressed with the high level of functioning of various areas, including education, prisoner employment and programs. At times, we have been concerned about staff morale and culture, especially when the management team was primarily made up of people acting in these positions. But this had settled with the appointment of substantive personnel over recent years.
The philosophy and role of the PRU has worried us over time, and continues to do so. The PRU has been crowded for most of its life, and this impacts on its potential to provide a truly reintegrative environment for prisoners. Shortly before our inspection in September 2017, the government announced that Unit 5 at Bunbury would re-open, thereby further increasing the prisoner population there.