Australia: The Judicial Educator At It’s Best – Law for Recovery + Drug Courts + Secure Welfare = Rehabilitation!

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Records broken at Australian-first drug treatment prison

  • Wandoo Rehabilitation Prison for women celebrates second anniversary
  • Prison has nation’s lowest rate of return to prison of less than one per cent
  • Wandoo still remains drug-free, which is unprecedented across the world
  • More than 100 women have graduated from six-month program

Australia’s first Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Prison for women has celebrated two years of operation with a rate of return to prison of less than one per cent so far.

This is virtually unprecedented for any prison in Australia with a national average of 46 per cent.

Wandoo Rehabilitation Prison was introduced by the McGowan Government as part of its comprehensive Methamphetamine Action Plan to try to reduce addiction-driven offending.

More than 100 women have graduated from the six-month intensive therapeutic program with just one woman returning to jail.

Some other prisoners have breached parole conditions but overall the Wandoo program is making a significant change in the women’s lives.

The facility was recently praised by the independent Inspector of Custodial Services as being like no other prison in Western Australia, and the transformation of the facility into a treatment prison was ‘a remarkable achievement’.

Wandoo was a privately run facility before it was returned to public hands in May 2018.

To the credit of the Department of Justice and program provider Cyrenian House, the prison was transformed in just a few months and started accepting prisoners who wanted to transform their lives.

The prison has remained drug-free in the entire two years of its operation, which is unheard of for any prison.

Wandoo runs a six-month community-based, therapeutic program, which involves participants facing up to their own truths about their drug addiction and addressing psychological and emotional issues.

Prisoners also have access to further support programs on release.

It has been a leading light in drug-addiction rehabilitation not just around Australia but the world, with corrective services from international jurisdictions such as Singapore interested in visiting the facility post COVID-19 restrictions being lifted.

A new 128-bed drug treatment prison for men at Casuarina Prison is just months away from opening, and will benefit significantly from the lessons learned and the achievements from Wandoo.

At a glance:

  • 694 women have applied to the program since July 2018;
  • 222 have been admitted;
  • 109 women have graduated;
  • 67 currently completing the course;
  • 43 did not finish either because of early release or dropped out;
  • 27 have had parole suspended or cancelled; and
  • Five reoffended, four of whom were fined and one returned to jail and will recomplete the Wandoo program.

As stated by Corrective Services Minister Francis Logan:

“When we started Wandoo as part of the McGowan Government’s Methamphetamine Action Plan, I had high hopes for what could be achieved.

“But the results after just two years are simply remarkable.

“Just one prisoner has returned to jail after completing the six-month program which means the prison has a rate of return to prison of less than one per cent so far. On average, WA’s rate of return is about 40 per cent.

“It is a very tough journey beating drug addiction and some people will stumble on release, but they are now equipped with the support on the outside they need and the internal strength to continue trying to improve their lives.

“At the recent two-year anniversary celebration we heard from former Wandoo prisoner Tory who said she had been in and out of jail since she was 19 and never expected it to change.

“But after completing the Wandoo program and facing some really tough truths, she has turned her life around and has been living a fully productive life on the outside for the last year.

“She has a job and savings, but just as importantly a fantastic sense of achievement and faith in herself to keep doing the right thing.

“I want to acknowledge the great work by the Department of Justice staff at the prison for making this ground-breaking facility a success in such a relatively short period of time.

“Congratulations as well to the program provider Cyrenian House for delivering what is not an easy program for the women to undertake, but one that is achieving remarkable results.

“Thank you also to the female prisoners who volunteered to take part in this program and for wanting to turn their lives around for themselves and for their place in our society.” 26th July 2020

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