Clear focus on prisoner welfare, but gaps exist
Since the death of Mr. Ward, the Department has implemented a clear focus on welfare during prisoner transports. This focus is present through policy and practice throughout the various stages of a prisoner movement and demonstrates the Department’s commitment to preventing mistreatment. However, we identified some areas where practices are not clearly aligning with the policy intent, or where improvements could benefit both staff and prisoners. We also found some discrepancies in practice between Ventia and Department-led movements, which could be aligned.
Risk mitigation is prioritised
Both the Department and Ventia have processes in place to assess and mitigate risks prior to undertaking a prisoner movement. However, we found the Department’s Prisoner Movement Risk Assessments were often lacking in detail and External Movement Risk Assessments were not always completed when required.
Generally, we found prisoners were restrained in accordance with policy, but identified some areas of non-compliance. This included the Department at times placing prisoners in hand cuffs and leg restraints while secured in a vehicle, without completing a risk assessment which justified the need for additional restraints. We also found an inconsistent approach to the use of leg restraints for prisoners travelling on planes.
Despite Ventia operating an ageing fleet, we found vehicles were being maintained to a high standard. This was aided by a relatively rigorous compliance and monitoring framework undertaken by the Department to ensure the safety, security and prisoner welfare was not compromised.
Good governance, but oversight and transparency are poor in some areas
Both the Department and Ventia have developed comprehensive policy and procedural frameworks for the delivery of prisoner transports. These frameworks reiterate a priority on safety, security and welfare. However, transparency issues and limited oversight hamper the Department’s ability to assure Department-led movements are conducted in accordance with policy.
Ensuring dignified travel: Anna’s experience
The case study outlined in this chapter demonstrates how the actions of staff, a range of procedural errors and a lack of transparency can undermine the Department’s intention of transporting prisoners in a safe, secure and humane manner.