Overall this fourth inspection of Bunbury Regional Prison found that the prison continued its tradition of performing well although acknowledging that there had been slippage in some areas.
- Whereas previous inspections had noted good staff/prisoner interactions, this inspection noticed a decline in this aspect of prison operations caused primarily by the overcrowding.
- The new Pre-release Unit (PRU), with a capacity of 72, had been overcrowded within months of first opening and housed 108 prisoners at the time of the inspection.
- This had implications for pre-release appropriate services for the minimum security prisoners residing in the PRU and the inspection found many prisoners in the PRU had no meaningful activity to keep them occupied, a situation in direct conflict with the ethos of a pre-release facility.
- The overcrowding in the PRU required double-bunking in three rooms of each six-bedroom house. Taking into account the age of some of the PRU prisoners and their physical limitations in relation to climbing up and down bunk beds, a different double-bunking layout had been implemented in these rooms in the PRU. This layout had two single beds placed in an “L” shape in the bedroom with storage capacity underneath the beds. The beds were made on-site by prison industries. This was good practice and a reasonable solution to the complex problem of double-bunking in the face of the overcrowding confronting the prison at the time.
- The overcrowding of minimum security prisoners at Bunbury Regional Prison led this Office to question why unit five, the old minimum security unit which was closed when the PRU opened then opened again only to close again six months later, remained closed. This Office recommended its re-opening, a recommendation which the Department did not support.
- The overcrowding across the prison also meant that the self-care unit (unit three) accommodated more prisoners than it should have. This had significantly compromised any hierarchical management system the prison had in place with prisoners who otherwise would not have sufficient earned privilege for a self-care placement being placed in this unit.
- The inspection also found a large number of officers off on workers’ compensation, as well as excessive use of personal leave and overtime. Prison management had, shortly before the inspection in July 2011, implemented strategies to manage these issues which were working but which had attracted some adverse reactions from some staff directly impacted by these strategies.
The management group at the prison was reasonably strong and cohesive at the time of the inspection. However, both the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent were acting in these positions, which led this Office to recommend that the Department ensure that the prison has a permanent management team holding substantive positions (recommendation 1).