When a decision is made on an application the outcome is forwarded to the Superintendent who is required to notify the prisoner of the decision and the reasons for that decision. The policy provides prisoners the opportunity to appeal decisions, but does not direct officers to inform prisoners of the appeal option or how to activate the process.
The ability to appeal and review a decision ensures that public authorities are accountable, transparent and engaged in continuous improvement. The Western Australia Integrity Coordinating Group notes that decision makers in public office should inform affected parties about appeal or review processes, and reflect on the outcome of any such appeal or review to consider any potential improvement to the process for the future.
Given prison officers are not required to inform prisoners of the option to appeal, the proper process as outlined by the Integrity Coordinating Group is not being achieved.
Where additional information in support of an appeal needs to be provided by the prisoner’s family, the information must be provided in writing to the prison. The prison forwards the additional information through to the decision makers in Sentence Management.
Prior to the change in funeral policy in September 2012 appeals were predominately related to providing further evidence to prove the significance of the prisoners relationship to the deceased. These appeals were assessed and outcomes were determined by Sentence Management. Where issues of cost became a limiting factor, appeals were assessed by the Deputy Commissioner Offender Management Professional Development.
When the distance criterion was introduced all appeals relating to this criterion were assessed by the Deputy Commissioner Offender Management and Professional Development. With the rescinding of the September 2012 policy, the Department’s functional restructure and the introduction of stricter parameters for the significance of relationship, appeals were assessed by the Assistant Commissioner Custodial Services.
With the recent changes to the funeral policy, transparency of decision making has been eroded. What is needed is a group of people with appropriate expertise who can assess the merit of an appeal. This group needs to be established so that they are quickly assembled, either physically or by phone. Given the cultural sensitivities with attending a funeral, the group should include appropriate Aboriginal representation. Members to the group may change depending on the location of the funeral.