Last updated 2 September 2019
A breach of prison discipline is an internal prison process to punish the breaking of prison rules. Breaches of prison discipline that do not constitute a criminal offence are dealt with entirely within the prison. An officer hears a breach of discipline hearing. If the incarcerated person wishes to have the breach reviewed, they must request a review immediately, and it will be referred to another officer who is more senior than the officer who heard the breach. Reviews of breach hearings are recorded.
Legal representation is not permitted at either the initial breach hearing or the review. A person who has language barriers or impaired mental capacity may be helped by someone else from the prison.
Behaviours that constitute breaches of discipline are set out in reg 5 of the Corrective Services Regulation 2006 (Qld) and include the examples below. These provide that a person in prison may have breached discipline if they:
- disobey an officer’s lawful direction
- wilfully or in a careless or negligent way execute a lawful direction by an officer
- make something that has not been expressly or impliedly approved by the general manager as something the prisoner may make
- possess or conceal something that has not been expressly or impliedly approved as something the prisoner may possess
- knowingly consume something that is not approved
- possess or administer medication without approval
- make a frivolous, vexatious or mischievous complaint about another prisoner or an officer
- organise or take part in gambling
- use abusive, indecent, insulting, obscene, offensive or threatening language in another person’s presence
- wilfully damage video or monitoring equipment
- send mail as privileged which is not
- without a corrective services officer’s approval, alter the prisoner’s appearance or another prisoner’s appearance so that they significantly differ from the prisoner’s appearance described in the record.
A prison officer may decide to deal with a prisoner’s alleged behaviour as either a minor or major breach of discipline, depending on factors such as the seriousness of the breach, whether the breach was intentional and the effect on the security of the prison. A prison officer is not compelled to breach a person if the officer considers that the breach was trivial, if there were particular circumstances or if the person’s previous conduct, in the opinion of the officer, warrants the person not being breached.
If a person’s conduct could be dealt with as both a breach of discipline and as a criminal offence, QCS must notify the Commissioner of Police, who will decide whether the conduct will be prosecuted. This advice will then be forwarded to the general manager of the prison. A person must not be punished for conduct if they have been convicted or acquitted of an offence for the same conduct.
If an incarcerated person is alleged to have committed a breach, the officer must decide whether a breach was committed within 24 hours of the officer becoming aware of the breach in the case of a minor breach and, in the case of a major breach, within 14 days. The person will then be advised of the breach and given a reasonable opportunity to make submissions, including calling evidence or questioning witnesses in their defence. If the officer decides to breach someone, they must advise them of the decision and that they have a right to have the decision reviewed. If the prisoner wants to have the breach reviewed, they must notify the officer immediately after being informed of the decision to breach. Major breach proceedings must be videoed, and the tapes can be subject to right to information requests. The QCS website has further information about breaches of prison discipline.