The Review identified integrity risks within Victoria’s custodial system related to the inappropriate use of force, risk of human rights breaches and behaviours such as obscuring body worn cameras. The Review also recommended changes to address the inappropriate use of seclusion, strip searching and restrictive practices.
Use of force is one of the most complex and serious decisions a prison officer makes at work. As noted by the Review, force is sometimes a necessary response to an unsafe or volatile security situation, such as threats to staff and others safety, including from self-harm.
The Department will work to ensure corrections staff have appropriate guidance on the use of force. Corrections Victoria will undertake a comprehensive review of its use of force policy framework and investigate options for extending the storage of surveillance footage from 7 to 14 days.
The appropriate use of seclusion, strip searching and restrictive practices across the adult custodial system is a key priority for the Department and Corrections Victoria. Significant work has taken place over many years to reduce strip searching requirements in the Victorian custodial corrections system, including use of body scanning technology, and saliva drug testing. Strip searching is currently used as a last resort as part of a suite of other mechanisms to limit contraband entering prisons.
Similarly, work to ensure the appropriate use of seclusion – also known as separation – is already underway as part of the Separation Reform Project. The Project supports people being accommodated in the least restrictive environment possible, while appropriately managing their needs and the risk they pose to others. As part of that Project, Corrections Victoria has:
- Developed an operating model at Dame Phyllis Frost Centre for a close support and supervision precinct that will replace the existing management unit. The model will be a highly individualised and tailored approach to managing risk while meeting the rehabilitation needs of the individual in the least restrictive way possible;
- Launched a ‘separation as last resort’ pilot at Marngoneet Correctional Centre and Karreenga Prison including new processes to better document the rationale for use of separation; and
- Enhanced data collection and practice to better record separation use across all Victorian prisons, giving Corrections Victoria the ability to quickly and effectively identify trends to ensure staff are responsive to the needs of those in custody. The demographic information captured includes people identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, those with a registered Intellectual Disability or Acquired Brain Injury, those aged under 25, and those with a psychiatric or suicide risk.
As part of the implementation of its Integrity Strategy, the Department will also engage with IBAC and the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission on its delivery of a custodial focused integrity and education training program.
The Review recommended strengthened oversight arrangements, including through an expanded Independent Prison Visitor program (IPV). This year, the Department will review its IPV recruitment and retention strategy with a focus on enhancing diversity and coverage across Victorian prisons. The Department is also in the process of reviewing the Aboriginal IPV program to ensure appropriate resources and oversight for Aboriginal IPVs to further support Aboriginal people in custody.