In a Western Australian first, the Mallee Rehabilitation Centre at Casuarina Prison is a treatment facility which provides a therapeutic drug and alcohol program to dismantle cycles of substance abuse and criminal offending.

Opened on October 1, Mallee is the first drug and alcohol treatment facility for male prisoners in the state and plans to house and support 128 men.

The prison will partner with service providers, Palmerston Association and Wungening Aboriginal Corporation to deliver an alcohol and other drug (AOD) recovery program called The Solid Steps Program.

A culturally safe program, Solid Steps has seen 30 male prisoners already register. Substance addictions have been identified as the core issue in the men’s criminal offending.

The participants will be housed in an individual and specialised area isolated from the mainstream prison which will provide them with intensive counselling and education to support recovery and their return to community.

The program requires a personal commitment from participants, with regular drug testing and cell searches—breaches of this agreement could affect their place in the program.

Many of the participants have a strong commitment to the program and the potential it gives them.

“I’ve had issues with, obviously, drugs and alcohol in the past. I have younger brothers that are in the system as well so one day I want to be a role model for them and for the wider community,” said one participant.

Another participant’s motivation is his young daughter.

“I’ve had a baby now, my little girl, I want to do the right thing by her so that’s why I’m doing this course. I want to get out and hopefully it will open up different pathways.”

All 30 participants of the program have less than nine months left of their sentence. The program isn’t just a commitment to themselves, but to the communities they will return to.

“This opportunity only comes along in one lifetime; you’ve only got one life to live so grab it by both hands.”

“You’re only going to better yourself and be a much more committed member to the community when you do get released,” said one participant.

Mallee Rehabilitation Centre prison officers have undertaken rigorous AOD training, provided by the Mental Health Commission, to ensure their ability to take on additional roles of case management and emotional wellbeing support.

The program is based on the Wandoo Rehabilitation Prison for Women, which has helped over 100 female offenders overcome substance abuse.

Inside the Mallee Rehabilitation Centre. Photo supplied by WA Department of Justice.

The $22.5 million rehabilitation centre forms part of the McGowan Government’s $244.8 million Methamphetamine Action Plan and the $96.3 million expansion plan for Casuarina Prison.

“The hope is that by addressing an offender’s alcohol and drug addiction it will stop the cycle of addiction-driven offending,” said WA Corrective Services Minister, Francis Logan.

“The treatment program will also extend to the community and offenders will be provided with ongoing support after they have served their prison term or made parole.”

By Rachael Knowles