If you would like to become an Independent Visitor or require further information, please contact the Coordinator of the service on 6551 4221 or email: corporate@oics.wa.gov.au

Independent Visitors

What is the Independent Visitors Service?

The Independent Visitors Service gives people in prisons and detention centres the chance to voice complaints and concerns to help improve standards in custodial places.

The scheme is an independent form of external scrutiny that monitors the standards of treatment and services in Western Australian prisons and detention centres. As such the service contributes significantly to the vision of a transparent and accountable custodial system.

Who are Independent Visitors?

Independent Visitors are volunteers who contribute to their community by ensuring Western Australian prisons and detention centres operate justly and humanely. They are appointed by the Minister on the advice of the Inspector of Custodial Services for a term of two years.

What do they do?

Independent Visitors attend their allocated prison or detention centre at least once every three months to talk with prisoners or juvenile detainees, and prison officers or juvenile custodial officers about their concerns or issues regarding the facility.

Following their visit they are required to make a short report to the Inspector in writing, and to include in that report a record of any complaint made by or on behalf of a prisoner. Such information helps the Inspector of Custodial Services monitor the prison or detention centre, and can be useful in identifying thematic issues within the prison system.

Visits take place during office hours. There is no after hours or weekend work. A visit would normally take a number of hours in order for the facility to be viewed and so those wishing to speak with the Independent Visitor can have access to them. Visitors generally spend between 3-5 hours on a visit.

 What do they talk about?

Independent Visitors assist by:

    • Helping with grievance procedures
    • Giving information about prisoner/detainee and community support agencies
    • Speaking on behalf of prisoners or juvenile detainees, when asked, to senior prison officers, juvenile custodial officers and/or the Superintendent
    • Recording complaints made by prisoners or detainees, or by anyone on their behalf. Complainants can remain anonymous.

What if personal issues are shared?

Prisoners or juvenile detainees may want to talk about personal problems. It is important that Independent Visitors are approachable. It is also important the individual sharing their problem is comfortable with the Visitor discussing these issues with an officer or the Superintendent so assistance can be rendered via the mechanisms within the facility.

What is done with the information gathered on a visit?

Within ten days, Independent Visitors write and submit a report on their visit to the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services. Proficiency in word processing and communicating by email is desirable. The report will include concerns raised; outcomes that may have been achieved or possible solutions discussed with the Superintendent and staff, and any personal observations, assessments and recommendations the Visitor wishes to make about the prison or detention centre.

 What happens to the report?

The written report is forwarded to the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services where the information is analysed, and where responses to some of the matters raised may be sought from the Department of Corrective Services.

Is training provided?

Prior to commencing, appointed Independent Visitors are given training on how the service is administered, important safety aspects when working in custodial places and broad information about the facility to which they have been appointed. New Visitors can ‘shadow’ more experienced Visitors until they are comfortable in the role. Each Independent Visitor report is distributed to the other Visitors who visit the same facility.

What is good about being an Independent Visitor?

Independent Visitors

    • Have the opportunity to participate in a challenging and rewarding process that allows them to provide an independent voice on concerns in prisons and detention centres.
    • Are in a position to speak with a diverse range of people about concerns and problems. Skills of communication, understanding and empathy will be tested.
    • Acquire knowledge and expertise about custodial places, internal administration and what works well and what does not.
      There is no doubt being an Independent Visitor can be demanding but the role can also be rewarding.

Role and Function: What do Independent Visitors do?

Independent Visitors have five main interconnected functions:

    1. To provide safeguard for the wellbeing and rights of prisoners and detainees.
    2. To provide information to prisoners and detainees concerning access to services such as grievance procedures and information on community support agencies.
    3. To speak on behalf of prisoners and detainees, when asked, to senior prison officers or juvenile custodial officers and/or the Superintendent.
    4. To record any complaint made by, or on behalf of any prisoner or detainee.
    5. To document and detail what happened during an independent visit and to forward a report to this Office.

Independent Visitors are required to visit their appointed facility at least once every three months.

Information gathered by Independent Visitors provides regular and fresh intelligence. This merges with the Office’s own assessment of the performance of prisons and detention centres.

 

Page last updated: 29 Aug 2016

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