While this page is concerned primarily with the period from 1900 and the role of the prisons system in managing problematic users of alcohol, information for the period prior to 1900 will be included. This is to provide a context to understand the importance and symbolism that prisons held in Western Australia (WA), especially in relation to its history as penal colony between 1850 and 1868, when it received more than 9,700 convicts.
Prisons were one of the many administrative functions undertaken by the Colonial Secretary’s Office (CSO), which was retitled the Chief Secretary’s Department in April 1924. A Gaols Department had been set up as a sub department of the CSO by 1890 and renamed the Prisons Department (PD) in 1947.
The PD was overseen by the Comptroller General of Prisons. The PD operated under the Prisons Ordinance 1849 until December 1903 and then from January 1904 under the Prisons Act 1903.
The department became the Department of Corrections in 1971, with the passing of the Prisons Act Amendment Act 1971, which established the post of Director of the Department of Corrections (DC). The DC was renamed the Prisons Department (PD) in 1982. The department operated under the Prisons Act 1903 and the Prisons Act Amendment Act 1971.
The PD was renamed the Department of Corrective Services (DCS) in April 1987 and operated under the Prisons Act 1981, which came into operation in August 1982.
The DCS was amalgamated with the Crown Law Department and the Juvenile Justice functions from the then Department of Community Development (DCD) to form the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) in January 1993. The MOJ included the Offices of the Crown Solicitor, Parliamentary Counsel, the Public Trustee, the Public Guardian, the Registrar General, the Commissioner of Equal Opportunity and State Corporate Affairs.
In addition, the MOJ provided administration of the Solicitor General’s Office, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Parole Board and the Law Reform Commission. The Ministry changed its name to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in July 2001.
The DOJ performed a number of roles, including administrative and support services, technical facilities and accommodation to State courts and tribunals, providing legal services to Government and its agencies, and managing adult and juvenile offenders in custody and in the community.
In February 2006 the DOJ was abolished and its functions were allocated to two newly formed departments – the Department of the Attorney General and the Department of Corrective Services (DCS).
The Department of the Attorney General took over the functions encompassing Aboriginal Policy and Services, the Courts division, the Office of the Public Advocate, the Parliamentary Counsel’s Office, the Public Trust Office, the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages and the State Solicitor’s Office.
The DCS took over the functions encompassing community and juvenile justice and the prison system.
Sources of data
Official detailed statistical information about operation of prisons, breakdowns of characteristics of the prison population, a breakdown of offences which includes a number of alcohol-related offences, changes in organisational arrangements and developments in services and policies, were routinely contained in annual reports from the commencement of the period.
This means annual reports are a rich source of the detailed statistical data contained in appendix tables, including breakdowns of data about utilisation of services and other measures, such as annual commitments, prison census and most serious offences, appended to annual reports.
However, as annual reports after the year 1996/1996 ceased to include the detailed appendix tables that had previously been published in earlier reports, more recent statistical information is not readily available in annual departmental reports.
It should also be noted that –
- annual reports were issued under the title of departmental CEO’s title, Comptroller of Prisons to 1951/1952 and not the name of the Prison Department
- reporting changed from a calendar year basis (1900 to 1920) to a financial year basis from 1921/1922.
Note: Some annual reports have been lost or were not produced.
Annual reports: Comptroller of Prisons (1899/1900 – 1951/1952)
Annual reports: Prisons Department (1952/1953 – 1969/1970)
Annual reports: Department of Corrections (1970/1971 – 1981/1982)
Annual reports: Department of Corrective Services (1982/1983 – 1992/1993)
Annual reports: Ministry of Justice (1993/1994 – 1995/1996)