Queensland will establish a new independent inspector role, held by the state ombud, to have oversight of the state’s detention facilities, with new legislation introduced into the state parliament this week.
Attorney-general Shannon Fentiman said the proposed inspectorate would review adult correctional facilities, youth detention centres and police watch-houses with the key goals of preventing harm and improving services. Under the new laws, the inspectorate would be able to conduct pre-arranged and random inspections of a place of detention and will also review or monitor a detention service at any time.
“While many of the places of detention have existing accountability and oversight frameworks, there is no one body responsible for the independent oversight of these facilities’ operations through a system of regular inspections,” Fentiman said.
“The proposed inspector of detention services will have broad powers to inspect all of these facilities as well as review detention services that are provided at a place of detention.”
The state government’s move to establish the new role comes in response to recommendations from a number of independent reviews in the state’s criminal justice system such as the Sofronoff Review, the Taskforce Flaxton report and the Independent Review of Youth Detention.
Mark Ryan, minister for police and corrective services, said that once a year the inspector would undertake a mandatory inspection of youth detention centres. For high-security sections of prisons and major watch-houses, mandatory inspections at least once every five years under prescribed regulation.
“Responsibilities of the role also include preparing and publishing standards in relation to the conduct of inspections, reporting to the legislative assembly on their inspection outcomes and recommendations,” Ryan said.
“These responsibilities will help ensure that the inspectorate supports efforts to promote and uphold the humane treatment and conditions of the people detained.”
According to children and youth justice minister Leanne Linard, the inspector will also be permitted to make recommendations aimed at promoting and upholding the humane treatment and conditions of people in state detention facilities.
“The inspector will report transparently and independently on the conditions in places of detention and will have a preventative and proactive mandate, with a focus on improving places of detention,” Linard said.
Other functions that the new inspector role won’t be responsible for are investigating facility incidents such as riots, deaths and escapes, or investigating individual complaints. These functions will continue to be the responsibility of agencies including the Queensland Corrective Services, the Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs, the Queensland Police Service, the Crime and Corruption Commission and the jurisdiction of the Coroner.