CV granted concessions to both operators on the measurement of their performance against SDO 23 (prisoner case management) in 2016–17. The circumstances leading to this decision demonstrate the importance for CV to consider any contractual implications for the state and private operators when planning any substantive changes in system-wide standards, initiatives or performance measurement approaches.
Correctional staff are expected to assess the risks and needs of individual prisoners and engage with them to promote behaviour change by motivating them to participate in programs and services, coordinating access and reviewing progress. These activities aim to improve management of prisoners, reduce risk to the community and decrease the number of prisoners returning to prison.
Each prisoner has an individual management file for recording key information, activities and engagement. SDO 23 relates to prisoner case management, with the operators' performance measured based on audits of a randomly selected sample of prisoner files each month.
CV selects the sample files for audit and mandates an audit tool. The audit tool specifies standard criteria and point scores for expected file content, in the categories of 'unacceptable', 'basic' or 'good'. Extra points can be allocated for additional or exceptional work. The audits produce a score for each file which is averaged across the total number of files reviewed to determine an overall result. The audits are not independent, as each prison operator audits its own files. However, CV undertakes monthly checks on the robustness of file audits and its decision is final.
The SDO definition and measurement methodology, including the audit tool, form part of the agreed contractual arrangements between the state and the private operators. The performance of the operators against SDO 23 contributes to the calculation of any performance payments under the contracts.
CV changed the audit tool for SDO 23 in August 2016. It intended for the amended tool to be effective from 1 September 2016 for all prisons, including Fulham and Port Phillip. However, it did not update the contracts with the two private operators to incorporate the new tool.
GEO raised concerns about the impact of the amended tool on its performance at Fulham, and CV agreed that it did not need to apply the new tool until November 2016. Fulham failed SDO 23 in November and December 2016 and argued that the change to the audit tool represented a material change in standard under its new contract. Port Phillip also experienced difficulties in meeting the SDO threshold using the new audit tool.
CV's CMB reviewed the impact of the new audit tool across the state and found that nearly all prisons were failing SDO 23 since the introduction of the new tool. This compared with only two prisons failing the SDO at the same time in 2015–16. The review also identified that
- practices considered 'good' case management using the previous audit tool are considered 'basic' under the amended tool
- the criteria under the new tool were seen as a stretch target to promote improved case management.
Given these circumstances, CV provided GEO with additional support and guidance in this area, and the Commissioner allowed performance for SDO 23 to be measured using the old audit tool. G4S was granted the same relief, and DJR will exclude SDO 23 results when calculating Budget Paper 3 performance for 2016–17.
CV intends to measure performance for SDO 23 using the new audit tool for all prisons from 1 July 2017. It will need to update the contracts for the private operators to reflect this.