06/01/2020 - 12:53

State to take over prison operation

06/01/2020 - 12:53

Bookmark

Upgrade your subscription to use this feature.

Contractor Sodexo will exit a loss-making contract running Melaleuca female prison in April, about four years after the facility opened, following a December agreement for the government to take over operations.

State to take over prison operation
Melaleuca is located in Canning Vale. Photo: Department of Corrective Services

Contractor Sodexo will exit a loss-making contract running Melaleuca female prison in April, about four years after the facility opened, following a December agreement for the government to take over operations.

The contract to run the 260-bed facility was intended to run until 2021.

But the French contractor and the Department of Corrective Services have agreed to end the contract early.

Sodexo will now work with the state government to ensure an orderly transition of the facility to public hands by April 4 2020 ahead of the original contract end in 2021,” Corrective Services Minister Fran Logan said.

“Returning the Melaleuca facility to public hands would provide more options for the management and placement of female prisoners throughout Western Australia’s prison estate.

“As part of the transition, there will be an opportunity for members of the Melaleuca workforce to join the WA public sector.

The state government also announced late last month that Acacia Prison would remain privately operated after a KPMG report (which has not been released) showed it was more cost effective to remain privately run.

“The same standards and principles apply to a privately run prison as they do to a public one, so I would expect any new contract manager of Acacia to continue to meet those requirements or they could face severe financial penalties,” Mr Logan said.

Acacia is operated by Serco, and will be the only privately-run prison in WA

The contract will end in 2021, with tenders soon to open.

Criticisms- public and private

The Melaleuca decision is the latest in a series of renationalisation moves by the state government, which included contracts at Water Corporation and another prison.

Melaleuca performed poorly in a 2018 report by the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services, which said Sodexo’s contract had been priced too low to meet requirements.

That had partly been because of how the facility was set up.

"Since opening in December 2016, we had been concerned about the lack of services being delivered to women at Melaleuca, the absence of activities, the safety of prisoners and staff, the basic nature of the infrastructure, and the lack of its integration with the existing public prison system," acting inspector Andrew Harvey said.

"While the inspection did find cause for concern, we also found a highly motivated and positive staff, and an organisation keen to engage, respond and improve."

The report was critical of the department.

"To some extent the number of issues reflects the rush by the department to open Melaleuca, and its abandonment of the previous robust, yet cautious approach adopted to contracting prison services, for example with Acacia Prison and Wandoo Reintegration Facility," it said.

"Another factor impacting on the situation is the contract itself, which at 543 pages is overly aspirational, highly prescriptive, and lacks clear priorities.

"Sodexo’s failure to ensure that they properly understood the terms of the contract created risks for themselves, the women, and the department.

"Notwithstanding this, Sodexo signed that contract and the government is entitled to expect the company to deliver against it."

But government-run prisons have faced their own problems.

An April 2019 inspection of Hakea Prison found it was overcrowded, with almost every cell housing two inmates, despite it being built for one person in each.

“Infrastructure deficits and overcrowding mean that conditions in most of the living units are not decent or humane,” inspector Neil Morgan said.

Mr Morgan also criticised a backlog of individual management plans for sentenced prisoners.

The state government asked Serco to use staff and services from the Acacia prison to clear the backlog.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

Subscription Options