Jail rehab standstill

By David Kavanagh | posted on August 8, 2019

A LEADING drug rehabilitation clinic that supports drug-addicted prisoners in Albany Regional Prison and elsewhere was barred from resuming work on Monday despite a month-long ban being lifted early last week.

Minister for Corrective Services Fran Logan said on July 30 that drug counsellors from The Whitehaven Clinic would be allowed to restart operations in the eight state prisons from which they had been denied access.

The ban on self-funded programs in WA prisons was originally instated by the Department of Justice in April and also affected Whitehaven services in prisons in Hakea, Casuarina, Karnet, Bandyup, Acacia, Wooroloo and Bunbury.

Whitehaven Program Director Tabitha Corser said she was disappointed Whitehaven staff were still being kept from doing their work in Albany.

“The Whitehaven Clinic has offered drug counselling to prisoners at Albany Regional Prison and Pardelup Prison Farm [west of Mount Barker] for the past year,” she said.

“In that time, we have supported eight inmates at both jails with our customised, intensive programs and face-to-face counselling through Skype. Three prisoners in Albany were affected [by the April ban] and cut off from their programs overnight.”

Ms Corser said that on Monday the clinic was notified three prisoners at the prison would not be allowed access to Skype counselling sessions.

She said staff at Albany prison gave only 40 minutes warning that a counselling session scheduled for 9am had been cancelled “despite [Whitehaven] having been re-granted access for the past two weeks”.

Ms Corser added that all appointments for Albany prisoners scheduled for the coming nine weeks had also been cancelled and that Whitehaven counsellors were instructed to “resubmit security clearance paperwork”.

On Tuesday, following an email enquiry from Whitehaven, Department of Justice Deputy Commissioner Cherly Clay promised to investigate the issue but said in the email that “these visits are at the management of the local site”.

“There has been no adequate explanation as to why the resubmission of security clearance paperwork is necessary or why access to Albany prisoners has been denied at the last minute, again leaving our clients in limbo,” Ms Corser said.

Prior to the developments on Monday, Ms Corser had told the Weekender that country towns such as Albany were not immune to the state’s ice epidemic, adding that the fastest growth of meth use in the country is in regional WA.

She said the number of government-funded rehabilitation programs in the state’s prisons was “extremely limited” with some addicts having to wait several months for treatment.

Corrective Services Minister Fran Logan said in a statement last week that while Whitehaven would be allowed to continue to run its programs, there were “standards and frameworks to be considered which also apply to not-for-profit organisations that deliver similar programs”.