Attempted suicides in WA prisons missed: Inspector

At least 18 attempted suicides in West Australian adult prisons and youth detention centres were misclassified by authorities as threats of self-harm, a report says.

The Inspector of Custodial Services found another 20 self-harm incidents in the nine months to October last year also appeared to have been attempted suicides, but Justice Department records failed to include whether intent was stated.

The report examining the accuracy of recording and reporting data relating to self-harm and attempted suicide incidents in custodial facilities said the findings suggested the department’s processes could be improved.

"By accurately recording incidents of self-harm and attempted suicides, the department can build a better understanding of the extent of the mental health challenges within our prisons and youth detention facilities," Inspector Eamon Ryan said.

"This information can be used to more accurately provide the resources required on the ground to support the wellbeing of people in custody."

Mr Ryan also found the department’s reporting system, at the time of the review, did not distinguish between self-harm threats and suicidal behaviours, such as thinking, planning or threatening suicide. 

As a result, the department had no visibility over the extent of suicidal behaviours being exhibited by people in custody. 

The report, tabled in State Parliament on Tuesday, recommended the department use a definition of attempted suicide that does not rely on identifying intent.

It also suggested introducing a clinical review process as two potential mechanisms to ensure incidents are categorised appropriately.

The Department of Justice said it was committed to accurately documenting self-harm and attempted suicide incidents in custodial facilities.

It also said it was committed to prisoner safety and wellbeing, and took every measure possible to reduce and prevent self-harm and attempted suicide incidents.

“Accurate recording and reporting of such incidents is crucial to data analysis to identify risk, develop and implement targeted prevention strategies and facilitate supports for at-risk prisoners,” Department of Justice director general Kylie Maj said.

“It also enables the department to fulfil its reporting obligations to national data collection agencies, with a particular focus on the prevention of Aboriginal deaths in custody."

The department recently updated its policies to include a new suicide-threat category in its incident reporting system.

Commissioner for Corrective Services Brad Royce said it would make it simpler for staff to categorise incidents and improve the accuracy of recording and reporting.

A tiered governance process has also been implemented, with local staff reviewing self-harm and attempted suicide incidents for data accuracy purposes.

According to the Justice Department, there were 49 attempted suicides and 28 serious self-harm incidents in WA's 19 custodial facilities between January 1 and September 30 last year.

The department also recorded 2199 threats to self-harm for the same period.

Among the most shocking incidents was the death of Indigenous teen Cleveland Dodd, who took his own life in the troubled youth wing at Perth's Casuarina Prison in October.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were 6718 prisoners in custody in WA on June 30, 2023. 

13YARN 13 92 76

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636

License this article

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store