Vic prisons face ‘significant corruption risks’, watchdog warns

By Shannon Jenkins

June 23, 2021

IBAC reveals details of four investigations to highlight ‘serious and systemic corruption risks’ in Victoria’s prisons.
IBAC reveals details of four investigations to highlight ‘serious and systemic corruption risks’ in Victoria’s prisons. (Adobe/Miguel Aguirre)

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission has called on the Victorian corrections sector to strengthen its policies, systems and practices to stamp out significant corruption risks.

In a new special report, tabled on Tuesday, IBAC has revealed details of four investigations to highlight ‘serious and systemic corruption risks’ in Victoria’s private and publicly managed prisons.

Based on the investigations, the key corruption risks in the state corrections system include excessive use of force; inappropriate strip searching practices; issues with internal investigations and reporting; interference with body-worn cameras and CCTV; conflicts of interest; inappropriate relationships; and trafficking contraband.

One investigation, Operation Rous, had substantiated allegations of assault by corrections staff at Port Phillip Prison against prisoners. Another, Operation Caparra, found a property officer at the Melbourne Assessment Prison had failed to disclose associations with current and former prisoners in Victorian correctional facilities and had misused Corrections Victoria databases on multiple occasions to access information about people known to her.

Two other investigations, Operation Nisidia and Operation Molara, uncovered instances of corrections employees had received payment for bringing tobacco into their prisons.


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IBAC commissioner Robert Redlich said that while corrections employees perform an important and challenging role, they must act with integrity.

“They work with people who are dealing with a range of complex issues including trauma, addiction and mental illness, as well as people who are highly practised at manipulating and grooming others to engage in criminal conduct,” he said.

“Preventing corruption is essential to achieving the aim of rehabilitating offenders and keeping Victoria safe. Where corrections staff fail to act with integrity by smuggling contraband, misusing information, covering up wrongdoing or failing to uphold human rights, these aims are compromised.”

The Department of Justice and Community Safety and Corrections Victoria have improved their policies and procedures, provided training to corrections staff, and restructured reporting lines to address some of the corruption risks highlighted by IBAC. However, there is a ‘critical need for further action’, Redlich noted.

“One of the most important and challenging areas is problematic workplace cultures that discourage the reporting of suspected misconduct and corruption,” he said.

“The department and Corrections Victoria have significant work to do to ensure that corrections employees feel safe and supported to report any concerns about suspected wrongdoing, so the risk of serious corruption is rooted out.

“Given the significant amount of public funding and trust invested in the corrections sector, the operation of Victoria’s prisons must be both effective and ethical.”

The corruption watchdog has made three new recommendations to the Department of Justice and Community Safety and Corrections Victoria, including that the entities review and strengthen training, policies, systems and practices to address the corruption vulnerabilities identified in the special report.

The bodies should also ‘take action to embed a culture of integrity across the corrections system, including ensuring staff across all Victorian prisons understand the importance of reporting suspected corrupt conduct and how they will be supported and protected if they do so’, IBAC said.

The commission has also called on the Victorian government to introduce a statutory obligation on corrections officers to report suspected corrupt conduct.

“Such an obligation requires cultural change to ensure staff understand the importance of reporting suspected corrupt conduct and how they will be supported and protected if they do so,” it said.

IBAC has flagged plans to undertake a joint initiative with the state ombud to expose and prevent systemic misconduct and corruption, and ‘address cultural issues related to corruption and misconduct in the corrections sector’.

“In light of this, IBAC welcomes the Victorian government’s recent announcement of a review into Victoria’s adult custodial corrections system which will look at the culture, safety and inclusion, and integrity within the corrections system,” IBAC said.


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