Last updated 3 November 2016 This chapter is currently under review.
There are very few mechanisms required by law for a formal internal merits review of corrective services decisions. The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal cannot review decisions.
However, there are a number of general complaints systems available for people in prison.
Complaints management system
Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) operate a complaints management system (CMS), which allows for the processing of complaints that have no alternative review options or have exhausted such options. In order to use the CMS from outside prison, the complaints form can be downloaded from the QCS website. People in prison should be provided with this form upon request. Once a complaint form is lodged, the complaint will be categorised as negligible, minor or major, and an acknowledgement of the complaint will be provided. Queensland Corrective Services states that a minor complaint will be determined within 30 days, while a major complaint will be determined within 60 days, where practicable.
The general manager of each prison is responsible for the safe custody and welfare of people in their prison and should be readily available to hear complaints when requested to do so. Complaints to the general manager are made in writing using confidential or privileged mail, a blue letter.
Ethical standards unit
Where a person has a complaint about officer conduct that they believe is in breach of the Officers’ Code of Conduct they may make a complaint to the ethical standards unit of QCS. This unit has the authority to investigate complaints pertaining to staff conduct. If there is no satisfactory response from the unit, the matter should be referred to external review.
Inspectors and chief inspector
The Corrective Services Act 2006 (Qld) (Corrective Services Act) provides for the appointment of a chief inspector to coordinate both the official visitor scheme and any investigations of incidents, inspections of prisons and any review of operations and services of prisons. The Corrective Services Act also provides for the appointment of inspectors to carry out these investigations, inspections and reviews. Section 305 of the Corrective Services Act provides that inspectors report to QCS about the results of any investigation and any recommendations. There is no requirement on QCS to have regard to these reports.
The Corrective Services Act provides that QCS may appoint an appropriately qualified person as an official visitor (OV) for a prison for a period of up to three years. There is no requirement to appoint more than one OV to a prison, but if two are appointed, one must be a lawyer and, if there is a significant proportion of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, at least one of the OVs must be an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person. At least one of the OVs at a women’s prison must be a woman (s 286 Corrective Services Act).
The Corrective Services Act provides that an OV must visit the prison to which they have been appointed at least once per month, unless otherwise directed by the Director-General. The function of the OV is to investigate prisoner complaints at the facility to which the OV is appointed. Official visitors are paid by QCS.
An OV may visit a prison at any time, except when a declaration of emergency is in force, and they can, on request, interview incarcerated people out of the hearing of other persons. The OV may inspect and copy any document kept under the Corrective Services Act that relates to a complaint the OV is investigating, other than a document to which legal privilege applies. Prison staff must not read mail addressed to an OV or listen to an interview between a prisoner and an OV. Prison officers must give OVs reasonable help to exercise their powers under the Corrective Services Act and must advise the OV on their next visit if a person has asked to see the OV in the meantime.
The OV must give a written report to QCS about an investigation, and at least every three months must give a written report summarising the number and type of complaints the OV has investigated. After investigating a particular complaint, the OV may make a recommendation to the general manager and advise the incarcerated person of the recommendation, but these recommendations are not binding.