During the course of his 2005 inquiry into the management of prisoners in Western Australia, the Hon. Denis Mahoney, Special Inquirer, referred to the plethora of rules and administrative procedures with which prison officers had to comply. He said, in part:
…It is appropriate that there be Rules to specify how things are to be done and to provide guidelines for officers to follow.
The administrative procedures prescribed must be able to be understood, to be applied, and to be adhered to. Complaints were made during the Inquiry that illustrate the deficiencies that occurred in relation to each of these. Prison officers are required to comply with:
• Acts of Parliament;
• Regulations made under Acts of Parliament;
• Director General’s Rules;
• Policy Directives;
• Operational Instructions;
• Superintendent’s Circulars;
• Standing Orders;
• Local Orders; and
• Unit Orders.
As at the commencement of the Inquiry, the Director General’s Rules alone numbered 17 and extended over multiple pages. The Policy Directives issued by the Director General numbered 55 and again extended over multiple pages. One of the previously superseded Rules referred to in evidence, namely Rule 2B (subsequently replaced by Rules 13 and 14) extended over some 50 pages. Officers complained, with some apparent justification, that it was not possible for officers required to make day to day decisions to have available (“to have a pocket large enough to contain”) all of these Rules; and that they had difficulty in reconciling even, for example, the provisions of the important Rules 13 and 14.
The position with respect to Youth Custodial Services appears to be no better. The volume of YCRs (currently numbering 42) which youth custodial officers ‘must observe’ (s 11A(a) of the Youth Offenders Act) and other administrative procedures relating to the management of detainees, is extremely and, perhaps unnecessarily, large.
Youth custodial officers must constantly balance the need for security and control against the safeguards that apply in relation to the care and treatment of young people in custody. A proper understanding of and access to the rules and related administrative procedures is therefore an essential part of maintaining that balance in the daily regime of a detention centre. Youth custodial services rules, standing orders, operational procedures and other notices and instructions are aimed at providing relevant guidance to youth custodial officers. However, the fact that all of these modes of guidance are in use presents layers upon layers of rules which can be difficult to unravel for those who must apply them, let alone the detainees who are subject to them.