Using force is sometimes a necessary response in prisons. But it is a major area of risk for both prisoners and staff given the chance of physical injury and psychological trauma when force is used. Unreasonable or inappropriate force also brings legal and reputational risks. It is critical then that prison staff know what force is and when it can be lawfully used.
In Western Australia, prison officers are authorised to use reasonable force in various circumstances. This includes, but is not limited to, when it is necessary to gain compliance with an order, to protect prisoner and staff safety, and to restrain a person in custody.
The Department of Justice has recently changed its policy governing the use of force in prisons. The new policy aligns with legislation, outlining that force:
- must be the option of last resort
- must be justified based on the circumstances
- shall be no more than necessary to control the situation
- shall cease when the level of perceived threat has been managed
- shall never be used as a form of punishment.
It also states that where possible, compliance should be gained, and conflict resolved through non-physical de-escalation techniques. Force can be applied when all options have been exhausted or are reasonably considered impractical.