Victoria’s anti-corruption agency, the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC), has highlighted ongoing corruption and misconduct risks in Victoria’s prisons in a special report tabled to Parliament today.
IBAC has uncovered serious systemic corruption issues facing the corrections sector through our complaints handling, research, reviews and investigations over many years. IBAC’s Special report on corrections focuses on four finalised investigations – Operations Rous, Caparra, Nisidia and Molara – which exposed serious corruption risks in the state’s private and publicly managed prisons including: excessive use of force; inappropriate strip-searching practices; misuse of information; inappropriate relationships and trafficking of illegal and prohibited goods.
The report finds that Victoria’s prison system faces ongoing corruption risks and recommends ways the corrections sector can strengthen its policies, systems and practices to prevent wrongdoing. It also highlights the pressing need to address problematic workplace cultures.
“The corrections sector is an essential part of Victoria’s justice system and corrections employees perform an important and challenging role. 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,” IBAC Commissioner The Honourable Robert Redlich AM, QC 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,” Commissioner Redlich said.
In response to these and other IBAC investigations, the Department of Justice and Community Safety (the Department) and Corrections Victoria have taken actions to address corruption risks, including improving relevant policies and procedures, providing training to corrections staff and restructuring reporting lines to enhance operational oversight.
In preparing the special report, IBAC consulted with the Department and Corrections Victoria on the work they are doing to address corruption risks. IBAC also advised of its plans to undertake further work with the Victorian Ombudsman to 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.
“I acknowledge the Department and Corrections Victoria have, and are continuing to, take actions to reduce a number of the corruption risks identified, however there is a critical need for further action, as the matters highlighted in IBAC’s report are not isolated incidents,” Commissioner Redlich said.
“One of the most important and challenging areas is problematic workplace cultures that discourage the reporting of suspected misconduct and corruption. 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.”
IBAC’s special report makes recommendations to address ongoing corruption risks and promote a culture of integrity across the corrections system, including that corrections officers be legally obliged 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.
“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,” Commissioner Redlich said.
The special report represents the first phase of IBAC’s work to expose significant corruption risks and identify solutions across the corrections sector. The next phase will be a joint initiative between IBAC and the Victorian Ombudsman aimed at exposing and preventing systemic misconduct and corruption.
The Special report on corrections (full and summary version) is available on IBAC’s website.