Home' Scoop : Scoop 50 Summer 2009 Contents process that happens when you're in the wilderness," he explains. "Countless
studies show that being in the wild reconnects people with themselves, with
communities and with nature, and these camps give the prisoners an oppor-
tunity to experience it. At the same time they are made to feel useful by being
able to contribute back to society. They learn skills and they can see that they
can be successful at something outside prison. It's a really big thing."
Mike believes the work camps are particularly beneficial for Aboriginal pris-
oners. "It's great for the Indigenous blokes," he says. "Many of them go into jail
and curl up against a wall. The work camps give them an opportunity to work
on the land, learn a trade, be in the wild and do something worthwhile."
The state's first prisoner work camp specifically for Aboriginal prisoners
was established in 2000 on the traditional lands of the Millstream-Chichester
National Park in the Pilbara region. In establishing the camp, the department
worked closely with the traditional owners of the land, the Injibandi people,
to create an opportunity for Aboriginal prisoners to work in the national park.
"To work on traditional land is a big thing and that's where this camp is
working very well because most of the guys we send out to Millstream are
actually from that particular area," says Kathy. "Wherever possible if a suitable
and eligible prisoner is from a particular area, we try to send them to a work
camp in that area because it facilitates visits and it keeps families in contact.
One of the big things in terms of re-offending is keeping those family and
community links going and that's extremely important, especially up north."
A Millstream prison officer says the prisoners gain a lot of confidence. "We
get some that aren't very sure of themselves," he says. "Even physically, they're
walking slumped over, but by the time they've finished, they're walking tall
and proud of what they've achieved in the area and have a lot more confidence
The camps at Mt Morgans, Derby and Wyndham are also particularly
critical in returning Aboriginal prisoners to their traditional lands and keeping
them close to their families and communities.
All seven of the state's work camps have been established under the same
model used for Walpole, in terms of selection of prisoners, selection of
communities and the community consultation process involved. Corrective
Services has maintained a very strong set of criteria for prisoner selection. As
explained by Kathy, it is a huge privilege for a prisoner to be selected for a
work camp. Although the offences are many and varied (from driving offences
to theft), the common factor is work camp prisoners are deemed to be low
risk and generally have only about six months of their sentence left.
"It's reserved only for those prisoners that have been able to demonstrate
to the nth degree that they are trustworthy," says Kathy. "They are minimum
security, highest level of trust prisoners with a very low risk of offending.
They've got to pass a number of criteria. They must be able to demonstrate
that they have a good work ethic, and they must have very good conduct
records from the prison they are coming from."
Kathy says the stiff competition has also helped behaviour in the prisons.
"It's used as a management tool in prison. And then there's a flow-on effect to
the work camps, where there is zero tolerance," she says.
The other important thing is the selection of the communities. When the
initial decision was made to expand the program to areas outside Walpole,
the department called for expressions of interest from communities across the
state. From 60 responses, 20 were shortlisted and four selected. "We will never
go to communities where we are not wanted and there will always be a very
extensive community consultation process," says Kathy.
Shire of Kellerberrin chief executive officer Darren Friend believes the
camps are a great idea, for both the prisoners and the community. "We have a
full complement of 12 guys at the Wheatbelt work camp," says Darren. "They
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