Victorian facilities that will be inspected regarding the use of ‘solitary confinement’ and young people

Monday 4 March 2019

A multi-disciplinary, multi-agency inspection team led by the Victorian Ombudsman will inspect Port Phillip Prison, Malmsbury Youth Justice Precinct and Secure Welfare Services, looking at practices related to ‘solitary confinement’ on children and young people.

Ombudsman Deborah Glass said the inspections would occur over March and April 2019 and would be carried out in line with the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT).

Port Phillip Prison is Victoria’s largest maximum-security prison with a dedicated youth unit, while the Malmsbury Youth Justice Precinct is a centre for males aged 15-20 and Secure Welfare Services are facilities for children and young people under child protection orders who are at substantial and immediate risk of harm.

In an Australian first, Ms Glass has established an advisory group comprised of leading oversight bodies and civil society organisations to assist her investigation. Members of the advisory group will be providing staff and other expertise to the inspection team, including expertise in dealing with childhood trauma and mental health.

Ms Glass said the inspection team would be joined by relevant experts, including Angus Mulready-Jones, the lead inspector for facilities detaining children and young people from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, the coordinating body for National Preventative Mechanisms under OPCAT in the UK.
 
“Preventive inspections carried out under the OPCAT model seek to identify risks that may lead to ill-treatment of detained people,” Ms Glass said.
 
“A thematic inspection across multiple facilities presents a unique opportunity to examine practices across different closed environments, allowing the investigation to identify both examples of good practice and areas for improvement,” she said.
 
“The inspection team will gather first-hand observations; speak confidentially with children, young people and staff; have access to inspect all areas of a facility; and review relevant records and documentation.”

The advisory group includes

  •  Ruth Barson, Director, Human Rights Law Centre
  •  Liana Buchanan, Commissioner for Children and Young People
  •  Lynne Coulson Barr, Mental Health Complaints Commissioner
  •  Karen Cusack, Health Complaints Commissioner
  • Julie Edwards, CEO, Jesuit Social Services
  • Kristen Hilton, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner
  • Justin Mohamed, Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People
  • Bronwyn Naylor, Professor, RMIT University
  • Colleen Pearce, Public Advocate
  • Trevor Pearce, A/CEO, Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation
  • Arthur Rogers, Disability Services Commissioner
  • Nerita Waight, A/CEO, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Services

The Ombudsman is expected to table a report on the investigation in the Victorian Parliament before the end of 2019.

Read the December 2018 media release announcing the investigation: Ombudsman to investigate the use of 'solitary confinement' and young people 

Read the 2017 OPCAT report here:  Implementing OPCAT in Victoria: report and inspection of the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre

Media contact: Ainslie Gowan | Tel 03 9613 6235 | Mob 0409 936 235  vomedia@ombudsman.vic.gov.au