26 September 2023

Justice locks jails in new confinement policies

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The Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services (OICS) has commended the Department of Justice for strengthening the governance of prisoner confinement with the introduction of a suite of revised policies.

The Office report also noted Western Australian prisons were typically compliant with legislation and policy relating to prisoner behaviour management.

Commissioner for Corrective Services, Mike Reynolds said managing prisoners in confinement was a complex and challenging task.

“Separate confinement is a last resort when all other options have been exhausted for managing prisoners with adverse or disruptive behaviour,” Commissioner Reynolds said.

“The Department has supported all 10 of the OICS report’s recommendations.”

He said enhancements continued to be identified and implemented, ensuring prisoners in confinement were provided entitlements including access to meals, showers, time out of cell, exercise and social contact via telephone, visits and e-visits.

“The Department is working with Acacia Prison’s private operator, Serco, to address issues identified about the ordering of prisoners into temporary separate confinement,” Commissioner Reynolds said.

“The report recognised that separately confining prisoners who were acutely unwell with mental illness to an observation cell for long periods was ‘often out of the control of the facility’ and ‘staff do their best to provide a safe environment for the prisoner and others’.”

The OICS acknowledged the absence of beds at the State’s only secure forensic hospital, the Frankland Centre, meant that many unwell prisoners had to be managed in a prison setting.

Commissioner Reynolds said the Department had a Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs Branch which provides mental health care to vulnerable people in custody.

“Services are delivered by multidisciplinary teams made up of specialised staff including nurses, consultant psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, Aboriginal mental health workers and Prison Support Officers,” he said.

“Psychological health services are available to all prisoners who require support, providing clinical assessments and interventions to prisoners with poor mental health, in particular those with acute risk of suicide or self-harm.”

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