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Prison disciplinary hearings held ‘in the dark’ with little transparency

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“I said, ‘Listen, I think you’ve made a mistake’ … the [hearing officer] said, ‘You have to plead guilty to something to get out of the slot.’ ”

Prison disciplinary hearings are run by prison officers and while states such as Queensland provide a statutory right to review, in Victoria if a prisoner wants to challenge a decision, their only option is to apply to the Supreme Court.

“There remains limited oversight of the process and relatively few opportunities for independent advice or support for prisoners,” the report said.

Despite previous investigations being conducted into the process, Ms Glass said her office decided to look into the issue again because she was still receiving about 60 complaints a year.

Among the six recommendations of Ms Glass’ report, she called on the Department of Justice and Community Safety to create a dedicated team responsible for conducting disciplinary hearings and internal reviews.

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The Ombudsman recommended the expansion of the volunteer Corrections Independent Support Officers to accompany intellectually disabled prisoners in hearings, an issue identified by the Office of the Public Advocate last year.

A spokeswoman for the government said the report provided feedback on how to improve the hearing system.

“These proceedings play a vital role in maintaining a safe, orderly and fair prison system,” she said.

The government announced an independent review into Victoria’s prison culture after the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission said last month it had “uncovered serious systemic corruption issues” facing the corrections sector.

The IBAC report said staff at Victorian prisons were inappropriately strip-searching and using excessive force against prisoners, misusing private information and smuggling contraband in and out of jail.

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