Last updated 19 January 2017 This chapter is currently under review.
The Queensland Ombudsman can investigate complaints regarding virtually any state government agency, including Queensland Corrective Services (QCS). Like the Official Visitors, the ombudsman’s office has extensive powers of investigation but, in the final analysis, can only report to QCS and to parliament, and make non-binding recommendations.
The ombudsman’s office has a free phone line to each prison, whereby people can access a complaints officer at the ombudsman’s office directly and make a complaint. This direct line enables the ombudsman’s office to initiate enquiries and/or an investigation immediately, although further particulars may be sought in person or in writing.
Officers make visits to the prisons at approximately six-monthly intervals. Through the mechanism of the ombudsman’s office, complaints aim to be resolved through sustained pressure and negotiation with prison managers, both in the prisons and at the head office. The ombudsman can also undertake in-depth investigations at their discretion.
Complaints about health services provided in prison can be made to the Health Ombudsman.
It is advisable to speak to the health service provider at the prison before lodging an official complaint to see if the issue can be resolved in this way.
Complaints can be made by sending the following details to the Health Ombudsman:
- your name and contact details
- information about the health service provider you are complaining about
- the details of the issue you are complaining about, including when it happened
- any supporting documentation
- information on the steps you have already taken to resolve your complaint.
The Health Ombudsman will try to resolve the issue within 30 days and this may include the following:
- attempt to facilitate local resolution
- attempt to conciliate the complaint
- refer the complaint to the provider’s registration board, or another organisation
- formally investigate the complaint
- take immediate action against the provider.
Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland
Queensland and anyone contracted by the state are classified as protected defendants for the purposes of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld) in relation to complaints by offenders. This means that any complaints of discrimination, sexual harassment or vilification that occur in prison or whilst under supervision (e.g. probation or community service) must first be addressed in writing to QCS who then has a maximum of four months to resolve the complaint. If still unsatisfied, a written complaint must be made to the OV who has a further month to attempt resolution. Only after this process has been exhausted can a complaint be made to the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland. This lengthy process does not extend the limitation periods for lodging a complaint with the commission, which remains 12 months from the date of the discrimination, sexual harassment or vilification.
In addition, a test of reasonableness has been specifically defined and applied to instances of both direct and indirect discrimination. Monetary compensation for discrimination, sexual harassment and vilification will only occur when bad faith can be proven, and such compensation will be placed into a victim trust fund (see Civil claims below and the chapter on Discrimination and Human Rights).
Crime and Corruption Commission
The Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) can investigate complaints of official misconduct by officers, staff and management of all prisons, and probation and parole centres.
Official misconduct is defined in the Crime and Misconduct Act 2001 (Qld) as conduct that, if proved, could be a:
- criminal offence
- disciplinary breach providing reasonable grounds for terminating a person’s services.
Misconduct also includes the attempt to corrupt a public officer. Misconduct by correctional officers that may be appropriately referred to the CCC include criminal acts such as assaults or acts of criminal dishonesty, as well as serious disciplinary breaches which might provide grounds for a termination of the officer’s employment. Officers employed by QCS are subject to a code of conduct which is available on the QCS website. The CCC has no jurisdiction to investigate criminal activity within prisons that solely involves inmates or inmates in conjunction with members of the public.
An investigation by the CCC can result in criminal charges being laid, disciplinary action being taken or recommendations being made that corruption strategies be developed. Complaints can also be dismissed as unsubstantiated.
Complaints must be made by statutory declaration. Frivolous or vexatious complaints may be rejected, and persons making deliberately false complaints may be prosecuted.
Investigations of complaints may be carried out by civil and police investigators attached to the CCC. Many complaints are referred back to QCS for internal investigation.