Living conditions during the first few decades were poor. Recommendations from the Women's Service Guild in 1910 included replacing concrete baths with enamel ones and providing training for dressmaking. While these small improvements were adopted, other significant changes were not.
With the appointment of Matron Jean Iles in 1966, education standards, meal preparation and skills development progressed. However true improvement was not seen until the establishment of Bandyup Women's Prison.
Prisoners often arrived in a poor state. After signing in, they were body searched and bathed. The prison uniform was issued and rules and regulations, daily routine and work lists were explained. Prisoners were put into cramped cells lacking conveniences such as toilets.
Matron Iles believed in rehabilitation and ensured inmates had a "safe environment" to learn self-respect and creative skills to help break the cycle of crime. Games and handicrafts including knitting, china painting, embroidery, as well as paperbark painting for Aboriginal inmates, became a regular activity in the Common Room. Exercise, including volleyball, took place in the court yards. A library was stocked with suitable material, including Agatha Christie mysteries and romance novels.
Visiting hours were 10am to 3:30pm, Monday to Friday, for a supervised half-hour. Visiting Justices of the Peace brought magazines, books and sweets, and Prisoner Aid and church groups conversed with the inmates.
A doctor was available on Mondays and after hours, and a psychologist was appointed in 1966. Sick inmates were separated and kept under observation to prevent the spread of illness, whilst unruly inmates were administered Largactil (an anti-psychotic medication) to calm them. Pregnant women were tended to at the prison and then transferred to Fremantle Hospital for the birth.