The most important finding from this review is that staff assaults, particularly serious staff assaults are rare. This is both commendable and expected. Keeping staff safe is a primary concern for any workplace and prisons are no exception.
The surprisingly small percentage of assaults triggered when the prisoner was agitated or stressed, or during high risk activities such as escorts or restraints, indicates that many staff are highly skilled in dealing with volatile situations. However, there are some specific challenges for staff. These challenges related to prisoners with mental health issues, prisoners who were unemployed or underemployed, and those who were being held in more secure facilities than their security rating dictated. Furthermore, these factors overlapped to produce a cumulative effect, particularly at Bandyup Women’s Prison.
Some staff were more likely to be victims of staff assault than others with female prison officers less likely to be assaulted than their male counterparts. Also, while many staff were capable of dealing with difficult people, some assault reports showed examples where staff actions had escalated the situation. Poor management of an incident not only puts the staff member at risk but also their colleagues and other prisoners. It was clear that a targeted approach for skills development through performance development was needed.