Fact Sheet 11 - Prisoner complaints

The Victorian Ombudsman’s (VO) jurisdiction includes public and private prisons.  If you wish to complain about a prison matter, you should first go through the prison’s internal complaint-handling process. 

When you make a complaint to VO about an action or decision by a public or private prison, the Ombudsman can look at it, tell you what occurred, and whether it was reasonable or unreasonable. She can also make recommendations to government bodies about the conduct of the prison and any other issues that may be involved.

Here are the steps you need to follow:


Custodial issues that VO can consider include:

  • lost/damaged property      
  • visits
  • access to medical treatment
  • mail/phone calls         
  • buildings and facilities
  • prisoners’ funds
  • restricted regime
  • harassment
  • assault by officers/prisoners
  • drug testing
  • unjust disciplinary decisions

Custodial issues that VO may not consider and appropriate referrals:

Some complaints do not fall under the responsibility of the Ombudsman, but may be dealt with by another complaint-handling body.  Below are some common custodial complaints of this kind, alongside the body that they should be reported to:

Court issues

Department of Justice, Courts and Tribunals Unit
Tel: 03 9032 0720
(9am-5pm Monday to Friday)

Crimes committed against prisoners

Victoria Police
Tel: 03 9247 6666 (switchboard: 7am-7pm Monday to Friday)
000 (in an emergency)

Medical issues

Health Services Commissioner
Tel: 03 8601 5200
(10am-4pm Monday to Friday)

Parole issues

Adult Parole Board
Tel: 03 9094 2111
(9am -5pm Monday to Friday)

Police conduct

Police Professional Standards Command
Tel: 03 9247 3533
(8am-4pm Monday to Friday)


Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC)
Tel: 1300 735 135
(9am-5pm Monday to Friday)

If you are uncertain of where to complain, you may call the Ombudsman’s office, by using a telephone in the prison.  Such calls are not monitored by the prison authorities.

Complaint handling process

Before contacting the Ombudsman, you should first make a formal complaint to the General Manager of the prison about your concern.  You are then welcome to contact VO if you cannot resolve the matter.  When contacting the Ombudsman, you should provide a copy of the response you received from the prison, together with the reasons why you are dissatisfied with the response.

Generally, VO will not become involved in a matter until it has been pursued through the prison’s complaint handling processes.  However, exceptions can arise if the complainant’s wellbeing is considered at risk, for example in the case of assault.


Please note: This document is intended as a guide only. For this reason the information contained herein should not be relied on as legal advice or regarded as a substitute for legal advice in individual cases. To the maximum extent permitted by the law, The Victorian Ombudsman is not liable to you for any loss or damage suffered as a result of reliance on this document. For the most up-to-date versions of cited Acts, please refer to www.legislation.vic.gov.au.

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Contact Details

Victorian Ombudsman
Level 2
570 Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone                     03 9613 6222
Toll free                  1800 806 314
Fax                         03 9602 4761
TTY                        133 677 or
                               1800 555 677
Interpreter service  131 450