There is no uniform policy guidance on routine restraint use
The authority for the use of restraint is clearly outlined in legislation, but there is no specific Department policy dealing with routine restraint. Some guidance on restraint use is provided in policy about use of force and further guidance is in policy on prisoner movements but it is difficult to know what does and does not apply when routinely applying restraint. Supporting documentation is fragmented leading to limited guidance or uniform practice from facility to facility.
The Department restrains prisoners who present little or no risk of escape or harm
Routine restraint use does not take into consideration individual risk. The approach assumes every person in custody can escape without considering age, illnesses, and immobility. People who are unconscious, frail, or with severely restricted mobility are routinely restrained. Such restraint appears to be disproportionate to the risk they pose and may even be unlawful.
There is an imbalance between restraint use and risk for pregnant women
Restraint increases the risk of falls and decreases the woman’s ability to protect herself and the foetus if she does fall. The Department recognises this risk. It also recognises that pregnant women are less likely to use violence to facilitate an escape, or having escaped, generally pose a minimal risk to the public in terms of violent offending. Despite this, current policy requires women who are less than six months pregnant to be routine restrained when attending external appointments. Given the requirement for external medical care during pregnancy, these women are subject to multiple routine restraints.
Inadequate record keeping prevents monitoring and full review of routine restraint use
The Department rarely records when routine restraints are applied. Good records support good decision making. Without these records the Department cannot be assured that restraints are being applied as per policy and legislation, that their use is justified, or that harm is minimised.