Wilfred Lopes Centre

From early 2006, inpatient mental health services for offenders in Tasmania will be provided within a Secure Mental Health Unit instead of at the Risdon Prison Hospital. This unit is called the Wilfred Lopes Centre for Forensic Mental Health, after the late Dr Wilfred Lopes.

Most people with mental illnesses do not commit crimes. But when someone who is seriously mentally ill does commit a crime, Tasmania is not made safer by locking them in prison and then releasing them back into the community with their mental illness inadequately treated. We make Tasmania safer by providing professional and highly specialised mental health treatment in an appropriate and secure health setting so that their condition is well managed before they are discharged. This is why the Wilfred Lopes Centre has been developed.

The Wilfred Lopes Centre is situated near the Risdon Prison, but is not part of the prison. It is a health facility owned and managed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Patients will be provided with modern, professional and highly specialised psychiatric care and treatment. Treatment will be based on individually tailored programs designed to support independence and dignity, and minimise the ill effects of long-term care.

The Wilfred Lopes Centre brings Tasmania in line with other Australian States and international human rights conventions relating to the incarceration and treatment of people with mental illnesses.


The Wilfred Lopes Centre will accommodate people with acute mental illnesses who require specialist mental health inpatient treatment.

Patients at the Centre will include:

  • prisoners with mental illnesses who require specialist mental health inpatient treatment;
  • people with mental illnesses appearing in, or remanded from, Magistrate and Supreme Courts and requiring inpatient specialist mental health treatment and/or assessment;
  • those found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI) or Unfit to Plead and placed on a Forensic Order;

In exceptional circumstances, subject to approval by the Clinical Director, the following people may also be admitted to the SMHU;

  • Young people with mental illnesses from the Ashley Youth Detention Centre who are unable to be adequately treated at Ashley.
  • Prisoners with cognitive or intellectual disabilities who require specialist care in a secure hospital unit.
  • Adult non-offenders who have severe and/or prolonged mental illnesses resulting in significant risk to themselves or others.

Related Links

Mental Health Act 2013

Criminal Justice (Mental Impairment) Act 1999

Sentencing Act 1997 (Sentencing Amendment Act 2007)

Security Provisions

Security provisions at the Wilfred Lopes Centre are similar to those provided in secure mental health units interstate, where there are no custodial officers. Security will be maintained through:

  • high professional staffing levels;
  • highly specialised training of all staff;
  • thorough patient risk assessments;
  • case management of each patient;
  • best practice policies and procedures;
  • effective diversional therapy;
  • carefully designed buildings providing clear lines of sight;
  • three fences, including a monitored detection fence and a monitored electrified perimeter fence;
  • a quick, two-person response to any breach in security;
  • one point of access to the unit, through a reception centre on the perimeter fence; and
  • a control station located above the reception centre, with cameras and remote control of security gates and doors.


The Wilfred Lopes Centre is staffed by specialist nurses, psychiatrists and psychologists, a social worker, an occupational therapist and other staff.

Care and Treatment

Patients of the Secure Mental Health Unit will receive the best possible care and treatment for their mental illness, with levels of security that match the assessed level of risk.

Services and programs will:

  • be delivered within an attractive and therapeutic setting that supports the independence and dignity of patients while maintaining high security to minimise risk to the broader community;
  • provide contemporary high quality psychiatric treatment and care;
  • be designed to reduce risk to the individual and others;
  • be based on individually tailored psycho-social rehabilitation programs that maximise individual functioning and minimise the ill effects of long-term care;
  • be based on a case management model that maximises the multi-disciplinary framework;
  • promote eventual return to community living or less restrictive environment;
  • enhance the quality of life of patients and address their needs for personal and social interaction while in this setting;
  • promote appropriate involvement in the prison community and /or the broader community to prevent isolation and facilitate a return to community living;
  • facilitate continued links with family, friends, service providers (including Mental Health Services, General Practitioners and other primary health services) and the Department of Justice; and
  • be culturally appropriate in a diverse society.

Patients and significant others will be actively involved in planning and delivery of their care and management.


The 35-bed Wilfred Lopes Centre is modular and flexible in design to cater for the varying needs of clients, including a mix of males and females. The grounds are landscaped to help create a therapeutic environment. The Centre includes:

  • Twelve beds in a High Dependency Unit, for people with acute illness;
  • Eighteen beds in an Extended Care Unit, for people who require a less restrictive environment and are able to participate in rehabilitation activities; and
  • Five beds in a Semi-Independent Living Unit for people preparing for discharge into the community.

There is also a 3-bed de-escalation suite with three seclusion rooms, lounge and courtyard (not counted as part of bed-numbers).

The design of the Centre provides flexibility to accommodate more vulnerable people.

Discharge from the Wilfred Lopes Centre for Forensic Mental Health

Patients will only be discharged from the Wilfred Lopes Centre when they are well enough to be discharged. Legislation has been introduced to establish a Forensic Review Tribunal to oversee this. Their discharge will be progressive and will be dependent on clinical improvement and reduction in assessed risk. When patients are discharged they will receive intensive outpatient follow-up by staff of Community Forensic Mental Health Services.

Sometimes admission to the Wilfred Lopes Centre will occur instead of a prison sentence. However, there is potential that people admitted to the Centre will remain inpatients for longer periods than their prison sentences would have been.

Sometimes prisoners will need to be transferred from prison to the Wilfred Lopes Centre for treatment. Once their illness has been treated, they will be transferred back to prison for the remainder of their sentence.