Safety and Cost Effectiveness of Private Prisons

Tabled: 29 March 2018

3 Safety and security of private prisons

Prisons are complex and high-risk environments with constant threats to safety and security. Port Phillip and Fulham are integral to the safe and secure operation of Victoria's prison system—in December 2017, they housed around 26 per cent of the state's male prisoners. The private operators and CV both have responsibilities for maintaining and improving the safety and security of these prisons.

Private operators are responsible for the day-to-day running of the prison and complying with legal, contractual and other requirements. This includes a suite of performance measures on safety and security risks.

CV is ultimately responsible for the safe and secure management of all prisoners and for monitoring and managing the prisons' performance.

In this part of the report, we examine whether the private prison operators and CV are effectively managing their risks and performance relating to key safety and security measures.

3.1 Conclusion

Private prisons are not always meeting the state's service and performance requirements to run safe and secure prisons, particularly in relation to assaults at both prisons and drug use at Port Phillip. This is consistent with system-wide performance.

There have been serious incidents at both Port Phillip and Fulham which, in some instances, has exposed weaknesses in how they manage safety and security risks. Neither private prison operator is investigating serious incidents using methods that effectively identify the root causes.

Prisoners assaulting other prisoners is increasing across the prison system, as prisoner numbers and their complexity increases. Private operators and CV have violence-reduction strategies, but there is a need to better evaluate these and share the lessons learnt.

3.2 Serious incidents

Serious safety and security incidents such as deaths, riots and escapes attract considerable public attention and threaten the safety of prisoners, staff and the community. While these incidents are not always avoidable, it is crucial that:

  • there are effective risk management and compliance programs to reduce the risk of serious incidents
  • responses to incidents are effective
  • investigations identify the root causes of incidents, and preventative actions are identified and implemented.

Serious incidents in private prisons

CV classifies incidents into two categories—notifiable incidents and reportable incidents. Notifiable incidents are the most serious, including deaths, escapes, fires, riots and serious assaults. Prisons must report notifiable incidents to CV within 30 minutes. Reportable incidents are less significant and prisons must formally report these to CV within 24 hours.

Figure 3A compares the number of notifiable incidents per 100 prisoners (therefore standardised for prisoner growth) at Port Phillip and Fulham to the average of other prisons with the same security classification. It shows that Port Phillip's rate of notifiable incidents is similar to the average of other maximum‑security prisons from 2011–12 to 2013–14. In 2014–15, Port Phillip's rates decreased and subsequently increased in 2015–16 and 2016−17, potentially related to the increase in remand prisoners after the MRC riot.

The increase in the average rate of notifiable incidents at other maximum‑security prisons in 2014–15 is partly due to a spike in notifiable incidents at MRC due to the riot on 30 June 2015. MAP's rate of notifiable incidents also increased between 2014–15 and 2016–17, on average 199 per cent higher than Port Phillip's rate of incidents. The high rate of notifiable incidents at MAP is not unexpected, as it provides assessment and orientation services for all new male prisoners and provides statewide psychiatric services.

Fulham's rate of notifiable incidents fluctuated from 2010–11 and has been lower or the same as the average of medium-security prisons in all years, excluding 2011–12. The spike in 2011–12 is attributable to a riot in January 2012 involving multiple prisoners. The increased average rate for medium-security prisons from 2014–15 to 2016–17 is partly due to the high rates at the newly opened Middleton and Karreenga facilities. In 2016–17, Fulham's rate of notifiable incidents reached the highest level since 2010–11 at 10.5 per cent.

Figure 3A
Notifiable incidents per 100 prisoners at Port Phillip and Fulham compared to maximum- and medium-security prisons, 2010–11 to
2016–17

Notifiable incidents per 100 prisoners at Port Phillip and Fulham compared to maximum- and medium‑security prisons, 2010–11 to 2016-17

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

The most common notifiable incidents are consistent across private and public men's prisons. These are:

  • 'good order' incidents, which cover a wide range of events that may risk the good order of the prison but don't fall into another category—for example, seizure of contraband such as mobile phones or weapons, procedural failures such as keys left unattended and use of force
  • medical incidents where a person is hospitalised
  • assaults on staff—CV classifies all assaults on staff where an injury occurs as notifiable incidents, but prisoner-on-prisoner assaults are only classified as notifiable if admission to hospital is required
  • incidents relating to drugs, alcohol or other substances—such as possession or selling—but not including positive drug tests.

Preventing serious incidents

Preventing serious incidents requires effective risk management and compliance. Both private prisons have adequate risk management and compliance frameworks, policies and processes. These policies and processes are consistent with contractual requirements and standards. While the private operators are not required to comply with government guidelines on risk management, their processes follow the same principles.

Both private prisons are accredited for a range of Australian and international standards related to risk management and compliance, which provide a level of assurance to the state that the prisons have effective management systems.

Despite both private prisons having processes in place, there are examples in each where compliance failures have contributed to serious incidents. Prison operators have taken appropriate action to address the weaknesses identified by incident investigations.

Port Phillip

In 2014, G4S developed an improvement plan in response to CV's concerns about its performance at Port Phillip. Part of this plan involved addressing deficiencies in risk management and compliance. Remedial actions implemented included:

  • locating the G4S national risk and compliance manager at Port Phillip to review the compliance processes, with direct reporting to the general manager
  • increasing senior management's oversight of compliance and reviewing the compliance model with a focus on violence reduction
  • restructuring weekly compliance meetings to focus on key risks
  • improving the analysis of violent incidents and trends.

CV validated the implementation of these actions, and we found that this has improved risk management and compliance at Port Phillip. In particular, the weekly compliance meetings are an effective forum for overseeing risks, with a strong focus on reducing violence.

It is difficult to attribute performance outcomes relating to assaults to particular actions or interventions when there are so many contributing factors. However, the SDO performance data in Section 3.4 demonstrates some improvement in prisoner assaults on staff in the second half of 2014–15 that could be linked to the improvement plan. Improvement in prisoner‑on‑prisoner assaults in 2014–15 was not sustained and performance declined over the following two years.

In 2016 and 2017, repeated incidents of noncompliance with firearms procedures and licensing highlighted gaps in Port Phillip's risk and compliance management. Port Phillip developed and implemented corrective action plans, and CV continues to monitor compliance with these actions. We observed rigorous checking of firearms licencing at Port Phillip and an appropriate focus on this risk.

Fulham

In 2016, there were two serious incidents that highlighted gaps in Fulham's compliance activities. An incident involving prisoners growing cannabis seedlings on site exposed weaknesses in Fulham's search procedures and compliance checks. Similarly, a failure to carry out control room procedures contributed to an escape in April 2016.

As a result of these incidents and the contractual default notices issued by CV, Fulham developed and implemented action plans to address the identified gaps, including those in compliance processes. CV monitors and validates the implementation of these action plans.

Investigating serious incidents

CV's operations division and the prisons work collaboratively to respond to and investigate serious incidents. Figure 3B provides a summary of this process.

Figure 3B
Summary of notification and investigation processes after a serious incident

Summary of notification and investigation processes after a serious incident

Note: PIMS is the system used to record incidents in prisons.

Source: VAGO.

Internal management reviews

Internal management reviews (IMR) are investigations undertaken at a prison following the most serious incidents like deaths, serious assaults and escapes. They can also be used to investigate workforce-related incidents or issues.

The private prisons have their own policies and processes for initiating and conducting IMRs, which differ to public prisons. In 2016–17, Port Phillip conducted six IMRs and Fulham conducted eight. Prisons submit IMRs to CV for review and monitoring of any recommendations and corrective actions.

Root-cause analysis is a process used to identify the underlying causes of system failures. It provides the information needed to solve problems and address failures.

We reviewed 12 IMRs at Port Phillip and 15 at Fulham relating to incidents between 2010 and 2017, and found that none used an investigation methodology specifically focused on identifying root causes. The terms of reference in only two IMRs explicitly stated that the review should attempt to establish the root cause of the incident, but the investigations did not reflect this requirement. This creates the risk that investigators will not identify the root cause of the incident, and that preventative actions will not be appropriately targeted.

IMRs often focus primarily on whether staff involved in incidents complied with operating procedures and policies. While it is important to identify whether procedural noncompliance was a contributing factor, investigations must analyse the reasons for the error or noncompliance. We found IMRs often attribute an incident to complacency and look no further into the underlying reasons for this. Prisons could improve their investigations and ensure that investigators understand the human factors that contribute to incidents and the cause of human errors.

The standard of IMRs from Port Phillip varies, and CV recently identified that two IMRs lacked detail and missed key factors that contributed to the incident. CV requested Port Phillip address this concern, but did not specify that Port Phillip adopt a root-cause-analysis methodology.

The new contracts require the operators to use contemporary root-cause analysis processes to investigate serious adverse incidents. The operators need to ensure they have the processes and capability to comply with this requirement, and CV should monitor the operators' performance. Fulham has not reviewed its IMR process since the new contract commenced to ensure it complies with this requirement. Port Phillip has acknowledged that its investigation process needs improvement but has not made any progress with this.

IMRs in public prisons

Level 1—completed by prison staff.

Level 2—completed by senior prison staff and senior staff from another prison.

Level 3—completed by CV's Systems Performance Branch, senior staff from another prison and a
subject-matter expert.

In the public system, there is a more clearly defined process for completing IMRs. The seriousness of the incident determines who conducts the IMR and what process is used.

We reviewed four IMRs from public prisons—one Level 1 IMR and three Level 2 IMRs—and found that, like the private prisons, the IMRs did not use a defined root-cause-analysis methodology. CV does not view the IMR as a process for conducting a root-cause analysis. However, there are no other processes or guidelines that effectively document how to conduct serious incident investigations to ensure that root causes are identified. As with the private prisons, this creates a risk that preventative actions will not be effective.

IMRs are not the only post-incident process, as shown in Figure 3B. We found that CV has extensive involvement in post-incident support and review. Briefs provided to the Minister for Corrections or Commissioner regarding the incident and the implications were thorough and effectively highlighted key issues. This allows CV to properly consider any potential system‑wide safety and security risks, and make informed decisions on any contractual implications for private operators and actions required to prevent future incidents.

JARO's role in reviewing serious incidents is the same in private and public prisons. In 2016, JARO conducted 72 reviews—56 reviews of deaths, seven reviews of serious incidents, and nine thematic reviews. More recently, JARO has changed its focus from reviewing serious incidents to conducting thematic reviews of the system in an attempt to respond to risks proactively. JARO's reviews objectively assess serious incidents and require CV to respond and develop an action plan.

3.3 Security performance

Physical security refers to the buildings, external walls, internal fences and other infrastructure that prevents prisoners from escaping and minimises potential for harm. It includes other technology and systems, like barrier control and closed‑circuit television (CCTV). It differs from dynamic security, which is the interaction staff have with prisoners, the relationships they develop and their awareness of what is going on in the prison.

The riot at MRC in 2015 exposed significant weaknesses in the prison's physical security. CV's Security Standards Unit (SSU) has subsequently completed physical security risk assessments at all prisons, including Fulham and Port Phillip.

CV established the SSU in 2013 within the Security and Intelligence Branch to:

  • set physical security standards for public prisons
  • provide expert advice on security
  • conduct security risk assessments
  • manage locksmiths for public prisons and other security-related functions.

The SSU was not initially involved in setting standards and monitoring performance in the private prisons—this was a conscious decision by CV to manage risk allocation under the contracts. SSU is becoming more involved in supporting private prisons, including conducting detailed risk assessments at both prisons in 2016. It is important that SSU maintain some oversight of physical security at the private prisons, to ensure consistency and to share lessons learnt and information across the corrections system. It is also important that CV has assurance that the private prison operators are appropriately managing risks identified by SSU.

Port Phillip's physical security risks

SSU's January 2016 risk assessment at Port Phillip identified 49 risks. It rated seven risks as very high or high, with three requiring immediate corrective action.

These risks are on the Port Phillip security risk register developed by SSU, which documents ratings and accountability for each risk. Many of the security improvements required significant investment and were part of the new contract negotiations. For example, during the course of this audit, there have been major improvements to the quality and effectiveness of the CCTV systems at the prison and upgrades to the control room.

G4S and CV have adequately identified physical security risks and are in the process of addressing them. G4S conducted a review of its physical security risk register in October 2017.

Fulham's physical security risks

SSU's January 2016 risk assessment at Fulham identified 48 risks. It rated 13 as high or very high, with six requiring immediate corrective action.

As with Port Phillip, Fulham has a security risk register developed by SSU. There is a program of work underway to address these risks. GEO has integrated the physical security risks into its prison risk register, however there has not been a review of the risk assessment and register due to a lack of clarity on whether the prison or SSU is responsible for this. CV has since clarified that GEO is required to review and update the risk assessment and register, with support from SSU if requested, and that CMB will monitor progress on this.

CV definitions of escape severity levels

Level 1—a prisoner absents him- or herself from supervised leave, for example, a work group, or from an open prison perimeter or fails to return from unescorted leave.

Level 2—a prisoner, while being escorted by an escort officer, absents him- or herself from the view of that officer for any period of time without lawful authority.

Level 3—a prisoner escapes from within the secure perimeter or while under escort from the Security and Emergency Services Group (SESG), or absents him- or herself for any period of time without lawful authority while under supervision of SESG.

Escapes

Keeping prisoners in secure custody is the core objective of the corrections system and is a fundamental measure of a prison's security. Since 2010, there have been 25 escapes from Victorian men's prisons. Escapes are categorised according to the seriousness of the security breach—of the 25 escapes, 21 were Level 1 escapes, which are the least serious. While escapes occur at both public and private prisons, 12 of the escapes occurred at a single minimum-security public prison.

Fulham and Port Phillip have each experienced a serious escape in the last two years, highlighting key security failures.

The SDO threshold for escapes at Fulham and Port Phillip did not change during the term of the original contract, however the new contracts impose a tougher threshold to minimise escapes.

Port Phillip

Since 2010, there have been two escapes from maximum-security men's prisons in Victoria, one of which was from Port Phillip. They both occurred during prisoner escorts outside of prison walls.

The Level 2 escape at Port Phillip involved a prisoner escaping during a supervised hospital visit in January 2017. The investigation into this incident found procedural failures in prisoner supervision and restraint, and as a result CV issued a contractual penalty to G4S. This triggered the development of an improvement plan, and G4S is currently implementing corrective actions.

Fulham

The 2016 escape of two prisoners from Fulham was a serious safety and security failure, and resulted in Fulham failing to meet its SDO threshold. It was the only Level 3 'over the wall' escape in the Victorian system in the last seven years. CV and GEO investigated the incident and uncovered several contributing factors, including human error and procedural failures, as well as infrastructure and environmental factors.

As a result, CV enforced a financial penalty and required GEO to implement an agreed plan to address the risks. CMB monitors the implementation of this plan and regularly updates the Commissioner on progress. GEO has implemented all the short-term actions, however it failed to provide a timely response to CV's request for upgrades to the perimeter. This resulted in CV issuing a minor service failure notice.

3.4 Safety performance

We examined the safety performance of the privately operated prisons against CV's performance expectations and compared their performance to that of similar public prisons where appropriate. The private prisons mostly met the safety incident thresholds set by the state. However, consistent with system‑wide trends, the private operators are experiencing an increase in assaults, which often exceed the performance thresholds.

In this section, we analyse performance of the private operators for assaults, deaths, self-harm and drug use in prison. We reviewed data on the actual number of incidents and the severity of the incidents, as well as SDO performance, which is recorded in 'incident points'. Incident points are calculated according to the severity of the incident. The more severe an incident, the more incident points a prison will incur—for example, for SDO 6 (prisoner-on-prisoner assaults):

  • a Level 2 assault will incur 12 incident points
  • a Level 1 assault will incur 4 incident points
  • a Level 0 assault will incur 1 incident point—inclusion of Level 0 assaults in incident point calculations commenced in 2014–15.

CV introduced incident points for SDO 2 in 2012–13 for the private prisons. Prior to this, SDO 2 reporting did not capture the severity of incidents. For this reason, we have only analysed SDO 2 results from 2012–13 to 2016–17.

It is important to note that CV sets different performance thresholds for each prison—these consider the prison's profile, any commercial negotiations (for private prisons) and potential 'stretch' targets (for public prisons). Therefore, we have only compared the private prisons' performance against their own thresholds.

Assaults in prison

There are inherent risks in the prison system that increase the likelihood of assaults. Prisoners often have complex needs. Many have drug and alcohol problems, mental health conditions, disabilities, gang affiliations and histories of disadvantage and trauma, or may be violent.

We found that, like the broader prison system, private prisons are not consistently meeting the thresholds set by the state for prisoner-on-prisoner assaults and, to a lesser extent, prisoner-on-staff assaults. This is particularly the case for Port Phillip and most maximum-security prisons.

Prisoners assaulting staff

The majority of assaults against staff occur at maximum-security prisons. Figure 3C shows that rates of assaults on staff have fluctuated at maximum‑security prisons and spiked in the first quarter of 2015–16 after the tobacco ban and MRC riot of 30 June 2015. These events resulted in the dispersion of the remand population and disruption throughout the corrections system, which contributed to the increased assaults. A second spike occurred in the second quarter of 2016–17 due to increased assaults at MAP and Barwon. CV does not attribute this to any particular factor. Medium- and minimum‑security prisons have small numbers of assaults, so identifying trends is more difficult.

Figure 3C
Assaults on staff per 100 prisoners, by prison security classification, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Assaults on staff per 100 prisoners, by prison security classification, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

Figure 3D shows that the least serious Level 0 assaults occur at a greater rate than more serious assaults across Victoria's male prisons. While all violence directed towards staff must be treated very seriously, it is reassuring that the majority of incidents do not involve an injury. Reporting minor incidents where there is no injury can be an indicator of a positive reporting culture, which allows prison management to intervene and prevent a more serious incident.

Figure 3D
Assaults on staff per 100 prisoners across all men's prisons, by assault level, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Assaults on staff per 100 prisoners across all men's prisons, by assault level, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

Level 0 assault on staff—occurs where there is an assault but no injury.

Level 1 assault on staff—results in an injury but does not require the victim to be admitted to hospital.

Level 2 assault on staff—results in the victim being hospitalised.

Port Phillip

Assaults on staff occur at a greater rate in maximum-security prisons than medium or minimum-security prisons. The number of assaults on staff at Port Phillip per 100 prisoners fluctuated between 2013–14 and 2016–17, as shown in Figure 3E. MRC and the average rate of other maximum‑security prisons also fluctuated during this period, more so than Port Phillip in the last two years.

Figure 3E
Assaults on staff per 100 prisoners at Port Phillip and MRC compared to the average of other maximum‑security prisons (excluding Port Phillip), 2013–14 to 2016–17

Assaults on staff per 100 prisoners at Port Phillip and MRC compared to the average of other maximum‑security prisons (excluding Port Phillip), 2013–14 to 2016–17

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

Between July 2013 and June 2017, Level 0 assaults made up 62 per cent of all assaults on staff at Port Phillip. Level 1 assaults made up 37 per cent and Level 2 assaults were less than 1 per cent.

Port Phillip met its threshold for SDO 2 (assaults on staff) in 55 per cent of quarters over the period 2012–13 to 2016–17. Port Phillip's performance threshold for this SDO did not change during the period we examined, and there was no adjustment in the new contract. Figure 3F shows that Port Phillip's incident points experienced several spikes in 2012–13 and 2013–14, and from 2012–13 to 2016–17 Port Phillip's incident points were higher than MRC's in 70 per cent of quarters.

Figure 3F
Performance results for SDO 2 (assaults on staff) at Port Phillip and MRC compared to the average of other maximum-security prisons (excluding Port Phillip), 2012–13 to 2016–17

Performance results for SDO 2 (assaults on staff) at Port Phillip and MRC compared to the average of other maximum-security prisons (excluding Port Phillip), 2012–13 to 2016–17

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

Fulham

Fulham has a low number of staff assaults per month, which makes it difficult to identify trends and, therefore, we have not included analysis of this data. For example, in quarter four of 2016–17 there were four staff assaults and an average prisoner population of 862.

Between 2013 and 2017, across all medium-security prisons:

  • 74 per cent of staff assaults were Level 0 assaults (causing no injury)
  • 26 per cent of staff assaults were Level 1 assaults (causing injury but not requiring admission to hospital).

There were no Level 2 assaults (requiring admission to hospital) in any of the medium-security prisons during this time. Fulham experienced an increase in the number of assaults on staff in 2016–17, which was due to an increase in Level 0 assaults. The increased reporting of less serious assaults may indicate a positive reporting culture.

Figure 3G shows Fulham's incident points, which are used to calculate SDO performance for staff assaults and reflect the severity of incidents. Compared to Marngoneet—a similar medium-security prison—Fulham's performance is worse in 65 per cent of the quarters from 2012–13 to 2016–17. The spike at Fulham in quarters three and four of 2012–13 was caused by a serious assault in which multiple staff were injured.

Figure 3G
Performance results for SDO 2 (assaults on staff) at Fulham and Marngoneet compared to the average of other medium-security prisons (excluding Fulham), 2012–13 to 2016–17

Performance results for SDO 2 (assaults on staff) at Fulham and Marngoneet compared to the average of other medium-security prisons (excluding Fulham), 2012–13 to 2016–17

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

Fulham met its threshold for SDO 2 (assaults on staff) for 80 per cent of quarters between 2012–13 to 2016–17. Fulham's threshold for this SDO did not change from 2012–13 to 2015–16, but it is more difficult to achieve in the new contract.

Prisoners assaulting other prisoners

There were 1 503 prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in Victorian men's prisons in 2016–17:

  • 53 serious assaults where a prisoner was admitted to hospital (Level 2 assault)
  • 1 162 involving a less serious injury (Level 1 assault)
  • 288 assaults with no injury (Level 0 assault).

Across the prison system, the rate of prisoner-on-prisoner assault is increasing, as shown in Figure 3H. From July 2013 to June 2015, the average statewide rate of assault was 1.17 per 100 prisoners. From July 2015 to June 2017, the average rate of assault per 100 prisoners increased to 1.81.

Figure 3H
Prisoner-on-prisoner assault per 100 prisoners in men's prisons, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Prisoner-on-prisoner assault per 100 prisoners in men's prisons, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

Maximum and medium-security prisons have both experienced increases from 2015–16, as shown in Figure 3I. From July 2013 to June 2015, maximum-security prisons had an average rate of assault of 2.0 per 100 prisoners, which increased to an average rate of 2.9 between July 2015 to June 2017. During the same period, medium-security prisons had an average rate of assault of 0.6 per 100 prisoners, increasing to 1.15.

Figure 3I
Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults per 100 prisoners, by prison security classification, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults per 100 prisoners, by prison security classification, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

As shown in Figure 3J, the rate of Level 1 assaults have increased more than the rate of Level 2 and Level 0 assaults. In July 2013, the rate of Level 1 assaults was 0.76 per 100 prisoners and in June 2017 it was 1.48. On average, the rate of Level 1 assaults increased by 3 per cent each month.

Figure 3J
Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults per 100 prisoners in all men's prisons, by assault level, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults per 100 prisoners in all men's prisons, by assault level, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

Port Phillip

The complexity of the prisoner cohort at Port Phillip is a significant consideration when assessing the number of assaults in the prison.

Figure 3K shows that the rate of Level 1 prisoner-on-prisoner assaults at Port Phillip increased after the MRC riot on 30 June 2015. Following the riot, there was an increase in Port Phillip's remand population up until the third quarter of 2016–17. Level 1 assaults are the most frequent type of assault at Port Phillip. Between July 2013 to June 2015, the average rate of assault was 1.74 per 100 prisoners, increasing to an average of 2.61 from July 2015 to June 2017.

Figure 3K
Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults per 100 prisoners at Port Phillip, by assault level, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults per 100 prisoners at Port Phillip, by assault level, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

The comparison of maximum-security prisons in Figure 3L shows that Port Phillip's rate of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults is similar to MRC, excluding the 12 months after the MRC riot. Barwon, which has different infrastructure, a different profile of prisoners and less prisoner movements, has a lower rate of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults.

Figure 3L
Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults per 100 prisoners at maximum-security prisons, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults per 100 prisoners at maximum-security prisons, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Note: The dip in assault numbers at MRC in July 2015 is the result of the transfer of a substantial number of prisoners out of MRC after a riot on 30 June 2015.

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

Figure 3M shows that Port Phillip's performance for SDO 6 (prisoner-on-prisoner assaults), as measured by incident points, is consistently worse than the average of other maximum-security prisons. Prior to the MRC riot, Port Phillip's incident points were higher than MRC's, aside from three quarters. From quarter one 2015–16 to quarter one 2016–17, Port Phillip's incident points increased on average 15 per cent each quarter, going from 284 incident points to 499 incident points. While the incident points do reduce in quarters two, three and four of 2016−17, they do not return to previous levels.

Port Phillip met its performance threshold for SDO 6 in 39 per cent of quarters from 2010–11 to 2016–17. There was no change in the performance threshold for this SDO at Port Phillip during the period we examined or as part of the new contract negotiations.

Figure 3M
Performance results for SDO 6 (prisoner-on-prisoner assaults) at Port Phillip and MRC compared to the average of other maximum-security prisons (excluding Port Phillip), 2010–11 to 2016–17

Performance results for SDO 6 (prisoner-on-prisoner assaults) at Port Phillip and MRC compared to the average of other maximum-security prisons (excluding Port Phillip), 2010–11 to 2016–17

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

Fulham

Consistent with the system-wide trend, Level 1 assaults are the most common assault type at Fulham, however, the rate of Level 1 assaults fluctuates, as shown in Figure 3N.

Figure 3N
Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults per 100 prisoners at Fulham, by assault level, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults per 100 prisoners at Fulham, by assault level, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

Figure 3O shows that Fulham's rate of prisoner-on-prisoner assault is consistent with the average of other medium-security prisons, which experienced an increase in assaults in 2015–16.

Fulham agreed to take remand prisoners for the first time in 2015. Since then, both the proportion of remand prisoners and number of assaults have increased. The average rate of assault was 0.6 per 100 prisoners between July 2013 and June 2015. From July 2015 to June 2017, the average rate of assault increased to 1.1.

Figure 3O
Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults per 100 prisoners at Fulham and Marngoneet compared to the average of medium-security prisons (excluding Fulham), 2013–14 to 2016–17

Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults per 100 prisoners at Fulham and Marngoneet compared to the average of medium-security prisons (excluding Fulham), 2013–14 to 2016–17

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

Figure 3P shows that Fulham's incident points for SDO 6 (prisoner-on-prisoner assaults) have fluctuated and increased in 2016–17. Fulham's SDO performance was worse than Marngoneet in 22 of the 28 quarters from 2010–11 to 2016–17. Fulham met its contractual performance threshold for prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in 67 per cent of quarters from 2010–11 to 2016–17.

Fulham's threshold for prisoner-on-prisoner assaults did not change under the new contracts, and it failed to meet the threshold in 2016–17 (the first year of the new contract) resulting in a reduction of its performance payment.

Figure 3P
Performance results for SDO 6 (prisoner-on-prisoner assaults) at Fulham and Marngoneet compared to the average of medium‑security prisons (excluding Fulham), 2010–11 to 2016–17

Performance results for SDO 6 (prisoner-on-prisoner assaults) at Fulham and Marngoneet compared to the average of medium‑security prisons (excluding Fulham), 2010–11 to 2016–17

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

Assaults and remand prisoners

In 2016–17, the majority of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults at Port Phillip involved remand prisoners. Remand prisoners accounted for approximately 50 per cent of Port Phillip's population but were involved in 63 per cent of assaults (up from 26 per cent in 2013–14). Due to data limitations, we could not determine whether the remand prisoners were the victims or perpetrators of the assaults.

This over-representation of remand prisoners in assaults is potentially due to remand prisoners being new to the prison, the effects of drug and alcohol withdrawal, undiagnosed medical illness and other factors described in Part 1.

Fulham has a smaller remand population. In December 2017, they represented 25 per cent of its total prisoner population. Unlike Port Phillip, sentenced prisoners are involved in the majority of Fulham's assaults.

Assaults on prisoners by staff

CV takes a zero-tolerance approach to staff assaulting prisoners. Any proven assault by staff will result in the prison failing this SDO. Prison operators must refer any allegations to Victoria Police for investigation, as well as following their own investigations and procedures for employee misconduct. Performance against this SDO does not require a criminal conviction to prove the assault. The Commissioner determines whether an assault occurred, based on the facts and any investigations by Victoria Police or the prison, or reviews by JARO.

Between July 2010 and June 2017, there were 299 allegations of staff assaulting prisoners across all Victorian men's prisons. Prisons record all allegations but these do not affect SDO performance until proven. In addition, since July 2010, there have been seven proven incidents of staff assault on prisoners.

At Port Phillip, there were 92 allegations of staff assaulting prisoners between July 2010 and June 2017, and five proven assaults—three in 2013, one in 2012 and another in 2011. As a result, Port Phillip failed this SDO measure in 2010−11, 2011−12 and 2013−14, and received reduced performance payments.

From July 2010 to June 2017, there were 12 allegations of staff assaulting prisoners at Fulham, but none were proven. Fulham passed the SDO for assault on prisoners for 2010–11 to 2016–17.

The remaining two proven assaults during this period occurred in public maximum-security prisons.

An unnatural death is subject to the coroner's finding that the death was caused by a homicide, suicide, an accidental cause, or a drug overdose, and the coroner finds that a person or provider contributed to the death of that prisoner.

A death will be treated as unknown while the coroner determines a cause of death and/or whether the prison contributed to the death. A coroner may also make an open finding when the cause of death or circumstances cannot be established.

Deaths in prison

Deaths in prison are categorised as natural, unnatural or of unknown causes. Most deaths in prison result from natural causes relating to age or medical conditions. The majority of natural deaths in Victoria's prison system occur at Port Phillip, as it provides medical services, including palliative care, for the whole system.

Unnatural prisoner deaths are not common. In some instances, they demonstrate a failure to protect a prisoner's welfare, which is a fundamental goal of prisons. All prisons have a zero target for this SDO, and any unnatural death where the coroner finds that a person or provider contributed to the death of the prisoner will result in the operator failing this SDO for the year. In addition to operators failing the SDO, the new contracts can impose a charge event for an unnatural death, resulting in financial penalties for the operator. This can occur prior to a coronial finding, where there is sufficient information to prove that noncompliance with contractual requirements contributed to the death. If CV issues a charge event, a subsequent failure of the SDO will not result in a further financial penalty.

The coroner investigates all deaths in prisons and determines whether the death was unnatural or natural. JARO also conducts reviews into deaths in custody. JARO's detailed reports include a review of prisoner management in custody and the prison's response to the incident, and may inform the coronial inquiry.

Since 2010, there have been 12 unnatural deaths across the corrections system, including two at Port Phillip and one at Fulham. There were also eight deaths throughout the system—including four at Port Phillip—where investigations by the coroner have not established a cause.

Port Phillip

In February 2013, an unnatural death occurred at Port Phillip, when a prisoner died from self-harm. A subsequent review by the former OCSR found that the operator's management of the prisoner prior to his death and management of the incident was appropriate. OCSR made one recommendation but, even if implemented, it would not have changed the outcome in this instance. The coroner's report did not attribute any blame to G4S for this death, so this did not result in an SDO failure.

The second unnatural death at Port Phillip occurred in 2015, where a prisoner went into cardiac arrest after ingesting illicit drugs. The coroner's report highlighted that G4S and CV have been able to learn from this death to reduce contraband in prisons during visits. The coroner's report did not attribute any blame to G4S for this death, so this did not result in an SDO failure.

There have been four further deaths of unknown causes at Port Phillip between 2014 and 30 June 2017. These deaths are currently under examination by the coroner, and therefore SDO outcomes have not been finalised. As noted in Figure 2A, the Minister for Corrections issued a default notice to G4S in regard to one of these unknown deaths, as CV found evidence of systematic failings.

S1 prisoners are at immediate risk of self‑harm and require observation every 15 minutes.

S2 prisoners are at significant risk of self‑harm and require observation every 30 minutes.

S3 prisoners are a potential risk of self-harm and require observation hourly.

S4 prisoners have a history of self-harm but are not currently at risk of self-harm. There is no observation of S4 prisoners.

Fulham

In April 2011, a prisoner at Fulham died after an assault. Correctional staff did not detect his injuries for a number of hours. Investigations found that governance failures, staff complacency during and after the incident, and noncompliance with operating procedures contributed to this death. GEO failed this SDO in 2010–11 and received a reduction in its performance payment, but CV did not impose a contractual default for this unnatural death. CV required GEO to develop and implement an action plan to prevent similar incidents at Fulham, and CV monitored the delivery of the agreed actions.

Prisoner self-harm

CV assesses all prisoners when they first enter prison to determine if they are at risk of self-harm. At-risk prisoners are assigned a self-harm risk rating ranging from S1 (immediate risk) to S4 (history of self-harm but not currently at risk). This risk rating determines the level of observation required and is determined by a multi-disciplinary risk review team, which includes a mental health professional.

In July 2017, 1 513 of Victoria's male prisoners (23 per cent) had a self-harm risk rating. Port Phillip had the second-highest number of prisoners with a self-harm rating—336 prisoners. This represented 31 per cent of prisoners in Port Phillip in that month. In the same month, Fulham had 154 prisoners with a self-harm rating, representing 18 per cent of its total population.

Figure 3Q
Self-harm incidents per 100 prisoners in men's prisons, by security classification, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Self-harm incidents per 100 prisoners in men's prisons, by security classification, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

Level 1 self-mutilation
—visible injury or injury confirmed by medical practitioner not requiring admission to hospital.

Level 2 self-mutilation—injury requiring admission to hospital.

Level 2A attempted suicide—not requiring admission to hospital.

Level 2B attempted suicide—admission to hospital is required.

Figure 3Q shows a slight increase in self-harm rates in medium-security prisons, particularly in 2015–16 and 2016–17. Rates of self-harm at maximum-security prisons fluctuate, and there were a few large spikes in 2015–16.

There are four classifications of self-harm incidents, ranging in severity. The most prevalent is self-mutilation where there is a visible injury but hospitalisation is not required (Level 1). We analysed the incident data for Level 1 self-mutilation at Port Phillip and Fulham, and found that 59 per cent of the prisoners had an S4 risk rating. Commissioner's Requirement 2.3.1 Management of At Risk Prisoners states that there is no minimum review period to assess the risk of S4 prisoners. Instead, it is the responsibility of correctional staff and appropriate psychological services to report changes in the behaviour or mental state of S4 prisoners, if detected. This is consistent with the operating instructions at Fulham and Port Phillip. The S4 segment of the population is over-represented in self-harm incidents, potentially due to a lack of ongoing assessment of their risk levels.

Port Phillip

Figure 3R shows that Port Phillip's rate of self-harm incidents has fluctuated and reached its highest rate of 1.9 incidents per 100 prisoners in March 2017. On average, Port Phillip's monthly rate of self-harm between 2013–14 and 2016–17 was marginally higher than MRC. From July 2013 to June 2017, MAP's rate of self-harm was, on average, 171 per cent higher than Port Phillip's. MAP has a much higher rate of self-harm incidents because it is a reception prison and cares for prisoners with mental illnesses. The remaining maximum‑security prison, Barwon, has a lower rate of self-harm in comparison.

Figure 3R
Self-harm incidents per 100 prisoners at Port Phillip, MAP, MRC and Barwon, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Self-harm incidents per 100 prisoners at Port Phillip, MAP, MRC and Barwon, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

Port Phillip consistently met its threshold since 2010–11. CV imposed a tougher threshold on Port Phillip in 2012–13 as part of end‑of‑service‑term negotiations and again in the new contracts.

Fulham

Figure 3S shows the low rate of self-harm incidents at medium-security prisons, making it difficult to identify trends. Fulham does not accommodate prisoners with an S1 risk rating and has very low numbers of prisoners with S2 and S3 risk ratings. Fulham consistently met its SDO performance threshold for self‑harm since 2010–11, excluding quarter two of 2015–16. The new contracts introduced a tougher threshold for Fulham, which the prison continued to meet in 2016–17.

Figure 3S
Self-harm incidents per 100 prisoners at Fulham and Marngoneet compared to the average of medium‑security prisons (excluding Fulham), 2013–14 to 2016–17

Self-harm incidents per 100 prisoners at Fulham and Marngoneet compared to the average of medium‑security prisons (excluding Fulham), 2013–14 to 2016–17

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

Drug use in prisons

CV records incidents of drug possession as well as usage. Figure 3T shows a slight increase in drug-related incidents in male prisons across the system. These incidents include possession of drugs and positive test results. The majority of these incidents (54 per cent) occurred at maximum-security prisons, while 40 per cent occurred in medium-security prisons.

Figure 3T
Drug incidents per 100 prisoners across all male prisons, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Drug incidents per 100 prisoners across all male prisons, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

CV monitors drug use in prisons through SDO 8 (random general urinalysis). PIMS randomly selects a number of prisoners for testing each week. For SDO 8, overall at men's prisons, there is a system-wide increase in positive drug tests, from approximately 3 per cent in 2010–11 to 5 per cent in 2016–17.

Port Phillip

Port Phillip's positive random urinalysis results have fluctuated since 2010–11. As shown in Figure 3U, Port Phillip's performance is worse than MRC and the average of other maximum-security prisons in nearly all quarters since 2013. Port Phillip experienced a sharp increase in positive tests in 2012–13, which has not returned to previous levels. Between quarter one of 2010–11 and quarter one of 2012–13, the percentage of positive urinalysis at Port Phillip was, on average, 6.59 per cent. From quarter three of 2012−13 to quarter four of 2016−17, the average percentage of positive urinalysis results nearly doubled to 12.1 per cent.

Figure 3U
Percentage of positive random urinalysis results at Port Phillip and MRC compared to the average of maximum‑security prisons, 2010–11 to 2016–17

Percentage of positive random urinalysis results at Port Phillip and MRC compared to the average of maximum‑security prisons, 2010–11 to 2016–17

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

In the last quarter of 2016–17, Port Phillip experienced a spike in positive test results, to its highest level since quarter four of 2013–14. This coincided with an increase in prisoners refusing a urinalysis test, which counts as a positive result. The majority of these prisoners were located in the same unit, and prisoners were advised that refusing a test results in a positive finding.

CV successfully negotiated a tougher threshold for Port Phillip in 2013–14, and the new contract maintains this threshold. This change to the threshold has not resulted in any improved performance, as shown in Figure 3U. Port Phillip failed to meet its threshold for positive urinalysis results in 12 of the 16 quarters.

Prison visitors present a significant risk to controlling drugs and contraband. Port Phillip has visits scheduled six days a week and, in 2016–17, managed nearly 20 000 visits. Fulham had approximately 10 500 visits in that period. Recent analysis by the CV Intelligence Unit (CVIU) stated that Port Phillip accounts for 20 per cent of the strip searches undertaken across the prison system, and 21 per cent of visitor bans.

Fulham

The percentage of random positive urinalysis tests varies at Fulham, with a noticeable spike in 2012–13. As shown in Figure 3V, from the quarter three of 2014–15, Fulham's results have been better that Marngoneet.

Figure 3V
Percentage of positive random urinalysis results at Fulham and Marngoneet compared to the average of medium-security prisons (excluding Fulham), 2010–11 to 2016–17

Percentage of positive random urinalysis results at Fulham and Marngoneet compared to the average of medium-security prisons (excluding Fulham), 2010–11 to 2016–17

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

Fulham performed well against its performance thresholds for urinalysis between 2010–11 and 2016–17, meeting the threshold in all but one quarter. The threshold at Fulham did not change from 2010–11 to the end of the initial contract, but CV lowered it in the new contract and Fulham met this tougher threshold in 2016–17. The threshold reduction in 2016–17 was partly due to combining the reporting results for Fulham and the minimum-security annexe, Nalu. A further decrease in the performance threshold was negotiated through the contract extension process.

Tobacco in prisons

Victoria implemented a smoking ban in all prisons on 1 July 2015. This created a new type of contraband for the prisons to manage and presented a unique challenge, as tobacco is a legal product.

Tobacco is easy for visitors to purchase and is difficult for prisons to detect. CV has not conducted any system-wide analysis of this issue but, anecdotally, prisons report a link between violence and the tobacco trade in prisons.

Figure 3W shows the rate of smoking incidents, or findings of tobacco per 100 prisoners since May 2015. The prisons with the highest number of tobacco incidents are the Judy Lazarus Transition Centre, Beechworth, Dhurringile, Fulham and Port Phillip, as shown in Figure 3X. While Port Phillip and Fulham do not have the highest rate of tobacco incidents in the state, they do have the highest rate of tobacco incidents for their respective security classifications.

Figure 3W
Tobacco incidents in men's prisons per 100 prisoners

Tobacco incidents in men's prisons per 100 prisoners

Note: The spike in July 2015 marks the introduction of the tobacco ban. Most incidents relate to the possession of tobacco rather than the smoking of tobacco.

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

Figure 3X
Ranking of men's prisons' monthly rate of tobacco incidents per 100 prisoners, July 2015 to July 2017

Prison

Prison security classification

Average monthly tobacco incidents per 100 prisoners

1

Judy Lazarus Transition Centre

Minimum

3.7

2

Beechworth

Minimum

2.9

3

Dhurringile

Minimum

2.7

4

Fulham

Medium

2.1

5

Port Phillip

Maximum

1.7

6

Middleton (annexe)

Medium

1.1

7

MAP

Maximum

1

8

Loddon

Medium

0.9

9

MRC

Maximum

0.8

10

Marngoneet

Medium

0.7

11

Barwon

Maximum

0.6

12

Hopkins

Medium

0.3

13

Langi Kal Kal

Minimum

0.2

14

Karreenga (annexe)

Medium

0.1

Source: VAGO based on data provided by CV.

Recent CV analysis of several serious assaults at Port Phillip, demonstrated a potential correlation between the presence of tobacco, illicit drugs and shivs, and the occurrence of assaults in individual prison units. The analysis covered January 2017 to June 2017.

3.5 Violence-reduction strategies

Implementing effective strategies to decrease violence in prisons is challenging, particularly because prisoners move frequently between prisons and their profile is constantly changing. Violence-reduction strategies must be tailored to the unique profile of each prison and need thorough research, including detailed analysis of data to gain an understanding of the causes of the violence. Violence-reduction strategies must be subject to continuous review and updating, as well as periodic structured evaluation to ensure they are working.

Port Phillip

As Port Phillip is Victoria's largest maximum-security prison, it is not surprising that it experiences the most assaults. G4S led the way in developing and implementing a violence-reduction strategy in August 2013, which clearly states the desired outcomes and covers a broad range of initiatives and activities that could reduce violence. G4S continually reviews incidents of violence at Port Phillip through its daily management meetings and weekly compliance meetings. In these forums, the activities targeting violence are discussed and adjusted as necessary.

However, the strategy lacks detail on how the prison will measure its effectiveness, and a review of the strategy is overdue. While G4S's SDO measures are closely monitored and they provide a high-level picture of whether assaults are increasing or decreasing, they do not allow G4S to assess which violence-reduction activities are effective. G4S should review its strategy as a priority to ensure it is based on current evidence and adequately resourced, and that its impact can be evaluated and measured. The lessons from this can be shared across the prison system.

G4S has had several iterations of the violence-reduction strategy, and the current version involves several approaches:

  • Prisoners who are perpetrators of violence are identified and allocated a violence-reduction 'VR' rating based on the severity of their behaviour. Their rating may result in sanctions and the removal of privileges, among other management strategies.
  • The operator has a violence-reduction database that records all incidents of violence and details of the prisoners with a VR rating who are subject to monitoring and sanctions.
  • A dedicated violence-reduction coordinator is responsible for monitoring and reporting on the strategy, with the clear objective to reduce violence.
  • There are a range of violence-reduction activities, including training prisoners and staff, engaging prisoners at risk of being violent in developing strategies, and utilising Port Phillip's Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme.

G4S also engaged a health and safety consultant to help develop and conduct a self-assessment of occupational violence (OV) risks at Port Phillip. This identified a range of areas for improvement, including OV policy development, staff training, environmental design in the medical area, and improving procedures to consider OV risks. G4S has developed an action plan to improve its management of OV at Port Phillip, which is monitored by senior management.

G4S's OV assessment identified that staff are particularly at risk when intervening in prisoner-on-prisoner assaults or disputes. This highlights that G4S should integrate OV strategies into broader violence-reduction strategies and not consider OV in an isolated way.

Our analysis of prisoner-on-prisoner assault data at Port Phillip in Figures 3K and 3L, along with the SDO performance data in Figure 3M, does not show any sustained improvement after the introduction or review of violence-reduction strategies. Figure 3E shows that Port Phillip's rate of prisoners assaulting staff improved in the second half of 2014–15 but this improvement was not maintained. Figure 3F shows a decrease in prisoner-on-staff assault incident points in 2014–15. This improvement was partially maintained despite the overall rate of assaults not improving, which is consistent with the system-wide trend. The increased reporting of the least serious assaults may be a result of the strategy developed in August 2013.

Fulham

GEO first developed a violence-reduction strategy—known as an assault‑reduction strategy—in 2013 by analysing incident data and consulting staff to identify the key factors that contribute to prisoner‑on‑prisoner assaults. It identified a large range of possible contributing factors, including drugs, staff interaction with prisoners and broader prisoner management.

The strategy documented current and new activities that may reduce assaults. GEO closely monitors all assaults at Fulham, and regularly discusses the activities aimed at reducing assaults. There is a strong focus on SDO performance as a measure of the strategy's success.

GEO reviewed its strategy in 2017 by again consulting with staff and identifying potential causes of assaults. It also engaged an external consultant to review its approach in November 2017. The consultant's report details the activities and initiatives GEO has in place at Fulham, but does not offer an objective evaluation of which activities are working.

It is positive to see that GEO consults with staff to identify causes of assaults and used some data analysis to inform its activities. However, it has not conducted a more structured evaluation of the assault-reduction strategy to make sure it is based on current evidence and clearly identifies what parts of the strategy are effective.

Public prisons

In response to increasing violence, CV developed a violence-reduction strategy in 2015. This strategy used the experiences of Port Phillip but focused more on reducing OV due to concerns about assaults on staff. It does not specifically focus on the escalating number of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults.

The strategy requires each prison to have its own violence-reduction plan and sets out five objectives, including:

  • to ensure policies, frameworks and procedures are in place to mitigate the risk of OV and direct staff in the use of safety measures, and emergency management processes
  • to equip staff to manage difficult situations, to protect their own health and safety
  • to ensure staff are trained and competent in assisting prisoners who are affected by mental health issues, drugs and alcohol
  • to provide technology and equipment solutions that support staff in frontline roles and protect their safety
  • to ensure zero tolerance messages are made clear to prisoners and appropriate action is taken against those who choose to breach standards.

There are some supporting guidelines and resources for prisons, and CV is currently implementing an OV training program at all prisons. Like the private prisons, CV needs to evaluate the impact of this strategy on reducing violence and develop a system-wide strategy for reducing violence in prisons, both towards staff and prisoners.

New contract requirements for managing safety

The new contracts give significantly more detail on risk management. Some of the risk management requirements, such as alignment with the Standards, are already in place. The new contracts explicitly require the operators to develop a just safety culture that:

  • encourages and supports staff to report incidents and near misses
  • balances a 'no blame' approach for human error with personal responsibility for following policies and procedures
  • promotes organisational learning from incidents.

These inclusions in the contract are a proactive approach to managing safety and security risks, and CV should monitor both private prison operators' activities to ensure they are progressing with this requirement. At 31 December 2017, neither operator had any plans or activities that build on existing processes to ensure they comply with this new requirement.

3.6 The role of intelligence in safety and security

The aim of intelligence is to proactively analyse information and take action against threats before they occur. The CVIU manages system-wide intelligence functions, and each prison has its own PIU.

CV Intelligence Unit

'A strong correctional intelligence system has the potential to prevent serious security breaches in prisons, including assaults, trafficking contraband, deaths and escapes. Every staff member can be a source of or receive intelligence information and has an obligation to ensure this information is provided to the Corrections Victoria Intelligence Unit.'

—CV's Sentence Management Manual

The CVIU plays a significant role in the management of safety and security risks across the corrections system by:

  • gathering, assessing, evaluating and disseminating intelligence across the entire corrections system, including prisons and offenders on community correction orders
  • managing intelligence information flows within and external to CV
  • providing intelligence training to staff at public and private prisons
  • reviewing intelligence units in individual prisons
  • producing reports on intelligence activities and ensuring risk information and assessments are shared appropriately between prisons.

There has been substantial reform of CV's intelligence functions and systems following several significant reviews and investigations over the last 10 years. In 2008, CV commissioned a review of its intelligence functions (the Comrie review) which identified serious risks with CV's intelligence function and recommended significant reform and investment in intelligence systems and resources. The Victorian Ombudsman's April 2012 report The death of Mr Carl Williams at HM Barwon Prison: Investigation into Corrections Victoria also found some ongoing failings in the management of corrections intelligence and delays in implementing the recommendations of the Comrie review.

Given this, our audit reviewed whether CV and the private prison operators are monitoring and responding to intelligence risks and issues, but did not extend to a detailed analysis of the effectiveness of intelligence activities.

CVIU provides equal support to private and public prison staff, including training and onsite support to PIUs. CVIU actively monitors intelligence activities at the private prisons, including collecting data on the number of intelligence reports lodged, and recording this in Centurion, CV's new central intelligence database.

Centurion was a critical factor in CV's intelligence reform. Staff working with the new database all reported that it is has significantly improved the capacity for prison intelligence officers and CVIU staff to review and analyse prisoner information. We observed positive examples where staff used Centurion to help analyse patterns of violence and target responses. Centurion has provided improved capacity to bring together a range of prisoner information from CV and external systems, to analyse relationships and prisoner associations.

However, in contrast to public prisons, 'general duties' correctional staff working directly with prisoners in the private prisons do not have direct access to Centurion. They submit information reports to their PIU by email or verbally, and PIU then enters this information into Centurion. This potentially reduces the volume and timeliness of intelligence information received from private prisons, although both private prisons have workarounds to minimise this risk. The number of reports made by general duties staff at Port Phillip and Fulham increased in 2016–17.

The lack of access to Centurion in prison units also restricts unit supervisors' ability to review and analyse information to understand risks and issues in their unit.

Prison intelligence units

PIUs are integral to the safe and secure management of prisons. They collect and analyse information reports, review and approve prisoner mixing and visit requests, determine search operation locations, and conduct random and targeted drug testing.

The demands on PIUs have increased with shorter prisoner stays, increasing movement through the system and the challenges of gang associations and terrorism.

We observed that both private prison operators rely heavily on their PIUs to inform and support their efforts to reduce violence and drugs. This was evident in weekly compliance meetings at Port Phillip and the 'Safe in Fulham' weekly meetings, which consider detailed prisoner-specific intelligence reports. We saw examples at both prisons of intelligence activities leading to significant seizures of drugs and other contraband.

In January 2017, G4S invited CVIU to formally review the PIU at Port Phillip. This report highlighted significant gaps in the PIU, including staff capability and practices, communication within the prison, upgrades required for facilities and cultural issues. G4S accepted all recommendations and has commenced a program of work to improve the PIU function.

Some of the issues identified in the CVIU review related to the increase in the overall number and proportion of remand prisoners, increasing movements, and a changing prisoner profile. In particular, it related some of the gaps in Port Phillip's PIU function to the increasing proportion of prisoners that have to be separated from other prisoners. For these reasons, after a negotiation process with G4S, CV has agreed to partially fund some of the improvements required, including additional resources, with G4S funding the proposed redesign and refurbishment of PIU accommodation.

GEO has not asked CVIU to conduct a review of its PIU at Fulham. CV should continue to monitor Fulham's PIU function through existing mechanisms, such as auditing operational instructions, to ensure it is compliant with all relevant requirements.

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