Through the Review, we will look at the experience of all people in custody and will have a particular focus on how Aboriginal people and people in other vulnerable groups are treated when they are in custody. This could include women, gay, lesbian and transgender people, older people and people with disabilities. We’ll look at the systems prisons and correctional centres have in place to keep people in custody safe and to protect them from unfair treatment.
Ways to tell your story
There are three safe, confidential ways for you to participate in the review. You can:
- make a submission
- register your interest in a confidential interview
- call our hotline.
Find out more about each option below.
Make a submission
Submissions to the Review are now closed.
All submissions will be kept confidential, and only de-identified information from submissions will be used to shape our findings and recommendations. The report will not identify anyone who makes a submission.
Register your interest in a confidential interview
Registrations for confidential interviews are now closed.
Each interview will take around 60 minutes and will take place in custody, over the telephone, or online (subject to current COVID-19 guidelines).
Please note: Due to demand we may not be able to interview all interested participants.
The interviews will be semi-structured and conducted by two members of the Review team in a way that is informal and conversational. They will be recorded and professionally transcribed with strict confidentiality arrangements in place.
You do not have to answer all or any of the questions. They are designed to help us identify key themes and systemic issues, and to inform the development of our recommendations and report.
We will use de-identified information gathered in the interviews to inform our report and recommendations. All interviews will be kept confidential. The report will not identify anyone who participates in an interview.
Participating in the Review from custody
Submissions and registrations for confidential interviews are now closed.
The Review will also be visiting prisons and correctional centres in Victoria and plans to host focus groups with people in custody (subject to current COVID-19 guidelines).
Information about the Review will also be provided directly to people in custody, as well as Independent Prison Visitors, Aboriginal Wellbeing Officers and key support and integrity organisations.
Making a formal complaint
Sharing your experiences will play an important role in helping us understand the workplace culture within Victoria’s prisons and correctional centres. However, participating in the Review does not constitute making a formal complaint or report.
If you wish to make a formal complaint or report, visit our Help and support page for information on organisations that can hear complaints about discrimination, sexual harassment, victimisation, workplace bullying, human rights issues and criminal conduct.
Privacy and confidentiality
Your privacy is one of our key concerns. The Review team has strong experience in the sensitive, careful management of issues around discrimination, sexual harassment, victimisation, workplace bullying, human rights issues and criminal conduct.
There are some instances where the law requires us to disclose information under mandatory notification and reporting requirements. This may include information where you tell us about something that could substantiate a criminal offence where the alleged perpetrator is a current employee of DJCS; where information leads us to form a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed against a child under the age of 16 years in Victoria; or where there is a reasonable suspicion of public sector corruption or misconduct.
We are also obligated to ensure that your safety is maintained, so if Review staff are concerned about your safety they might confidentially notify the prison to have someone check on your wellbeing.
If you want to participate in the Review but are worried that your story might mean that we may have to disclose your information, you can participate in the anonymous survey or submit an anonymous submission. You can also contact us to talk about what your other options to participate might be.
We will collect, store and destroy all personal information in accordance with the information privacy principles contained in the Privacy and Data Protection Act and our obligations under the Public Records Act 1973.
Common concerns in custody
Some of the common issues affecting people’s safety and wellbeing in custody are racism, discrimination, sexual harassment, assault and mistreatment, and victimisation, as well as unfair disciplinary processes, and a lack of access to programs and support to meet individuals’ needs and rehabilitation. Inadequate access to family and cultural supports is also a common concern for Aboriginal people.
Discrimination occurs when a person is treated unfairly because of a personal characteristic that is protected by the law – this could include your age, race, disability, religion, sex and sexual orientation. Discrimination is against the law, whether it is direct or indirect.
- Direct discrimination is treating or proposing to treat someone unfairly because of a protected attribute – for example, not giving someone a promotion because of their sex.
- Indirect discrimination is when an unreasonable requirement, condition or practice – which may appear to treat people equally – disadvantages or potentially disadvantages a group of people with a protected attribute.
Aboriginal cultural safety
A culturally safe environment ensures the identity, culture and experience of Aboriginal people are respected. In a culturally safe environment, people do not experience discrimination, racism or challenges to their identity.
Integrity and misconduct
When custodial staff act with integrity, they are honest, open and transparent in the way they work and use their powers responsibly, upholding public trust. A lack of integrity sometimes results in the mistreatment, assault or unfair treatment of people in custody. Examples of the sorts of concerns people in custody may have include:
- Excessive use of force
- Inappropriate strip-searching practices, seclusion and behaviour management
- Inadequate record keeping, internal investigations and reporting
- Interference with body-worn cameras and CCTV
- Inappropriate relationships
- Conflicts of interest
- Introducing contraband
- Misuse of information.
There are many different behaviours that may be considered misconduct, including causing risks to health and safety of staff and prisoners.
Sexual harassment is any unwanted conduct of a sexual nature that could make someone feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. It can be physical, verbal or written (including electronic communication). Sexual harassment can be a single incident or repeated behaviour.
Victimisation occurs when a person punishes or threatens to punish another person because they have made a complaint about discrimination, bullying or sexual harassment, or helped someone else make a complaint. Sometimes people may be victimised if they refuse to do something because it would discriminate against, sexually harass or victimise someone else.
Unfair disciplinary processes
A recent report of the Victorian Ombudsman raised concerns about the fairness of prison disciplinary processes. Disciplinary processes deal with people who break prison rules and are important for maintaining order and safety within custody. However, it is important that disciplinary processes are fair, transparent, well documented and able to be challenged. Consequences for breaking rules should also be fair and proportionate given they can have serious impacts on a person’s parole and include loss of ‘privileges’ such as contact or telephone calls with family.
Lack of access to individual support and programs
Individuals in custody must have access to physical and mental health supports to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing. This is particularly important for people with a disability. Prisons should also support the rehabilitation goals of all individuals from the commencement of their time in custody, however, we know that access to programs, supports, skills and employment are not always available in prison.