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Issue #1806      December 13, 2017

Broome Jail conditions “inhumane, degrading”

Conditions at a rundown Western Australian regional prison, where most of the inmates are Aboriginal, are “inhumane and degrading”, with some inmates in crowded cells forced to sleep on mattresses on the floor and potentially come into contact with vermin, a scathing report has found.

WA Inspector of Custodial Services Neil Morgan said the ageing Broome Regional Prison was unfit for purpose, describing conditions in the male maximum-security unit as degrading and the worst in the state.

The report found prisoner numbers in the unit regularly exceeded 35, despite having only 28 beds, and inmates were confined to the unit 24 hours a day with no personal space and poor hygiene due to sub-standard showers.

Inmates should only be held there for short periods but at the time of the inspection, five men had been held for more than 90 days and another three for more than 60 days.

“The only alleviating factor was that almost all of the prisoners were Kimberley men, in-country with fellow countrymen,” Morgan said.

“They showed remarkable grace and tolerance of conditions that would not be accepted in Perth. But even their goodwill was wearing thin.”

One prisoner commented in a survey: “Make it bigger so I don’t have to sleep on the floor among other prisoners’ rubbish, cigarette butts, body odour etc.”

The prison manages male and female inmates of all security levels from across the Kimberley region, and is the oldest prison in the state.

The facility had been in limbo after the previous government announced it would close by December 2015, following years of neglect, then backtracked without firming plans for its future.

The Labor government recently announced a $2.7 million upgrade, which will include new security measures, a reception area, larger recreation spaces, beds and new women’s cells.

Acting Commissioner of Corrective services Tony Hassall said the department shared Mr Morgan’s concerns, but claimed the upgrade, which would be done in stages next year, addressed many of the issues.

Mr Morgan said he remained concerned about long-term planning, particularly for East Kimberley prisoners.

Key findings of the inspector:

  • The conditions in the Broome maximum security unit are inhumane and degrading. Cells are crowded, with some prisoners sleeping on cell floors.
  • No rehabilitation or voluntary programs.
  • No education available.
  • Staff levels too low to safely manage the prison population. Security processes also appear disorganised and present a risk.
  • Few female officers, and sexist behaviour and language among staff.
  • Women are marginalised and confined to their unit. They also have limited work opportunities and their visiting area is unsuitable.
  • Work, education, programs and skills development courses are limited or non-existent.
  • No prison support officer to assist with welfare concerns and no equivalent Aboriginal visitor scheme.
  • Prisoners feel staff do not understand their culture. Staff feel their training is unhelpful in understanding and managing Aboriginal people.
  • Failure to recognise Aboriginal cultural relationships, particularly when prisoners apply to attend a funeral.
  • Nursing coverage has improved but there is no visiting doctor, health education, dental service or ancillary services.

Koori Mail

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