Western Australia’s Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services (OICS) has reached 20 years of providing independent oversight that has helped improve the State’s custodial facilities.
The office was the first of its kind in Australia and in recent years it has helped New South Wales establish a similar oversight body as well the ACT, Tasmania and Queensland.
The Inspector of Custodial Services has wide-ranging powers that enable them to visit any custodial facility unannounced and conduct various investigations.
The Inspector reports to Parliament on their findings and also keeps the public informed of their conclusions and recommendations.
Having an independent oversight mechanism also helps Australia meet international obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).
The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s 2019 Baseline Assessment Report noted OICS was the most advanced in terms of compliance with OPCAT standards.
OICS inspects every custodial facility in WA and can also be directed to review custodial matters by the Corrective Services Minister.
It has tabled 130 inspection reports since 2001 and the office is now on the seventh round of inspections of WA’s custodial facilities.
OICS has also conducted 25 reviews of various matters such as service delivery to prisoners or prisoner management since 2012.
OICS also manages the State’s Independent Visitors Scheme, which involves volunteers attending allocated custodial facilities to talk to prisoners and staff about any concerns or issues with their facility.
There have been three inspectors during the operation of the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services: Professor Richard Harding (2000 – 2009), Professor Neil Morgan (2009 – 2019) and the current inspector Eamon Ryan (2019 – present).
OICS was created initially under the Prisons Amendment Act 1999 before it was established in its own right with the Inspector of Custodial Services Act 2003.
As stated by Corrective Services Minister Francis Logan:
“Western Australia was the first State to introduce an independent oversight body, which has helped to ensure that our State’s custodial facilities continually strive for best practice.
“The inspector’s powers are extensive and provide for unimpeded access to custodial facilities, their records and to prisoners and staff.
“The inspector reports to Parliament and the public so that the operation and management of our State’s custodial facilities can be thoroughly examined in an open forum.
“We are continually striving to provide services and rehabilitative programs that will help improve the lives of prisoners and, in turn, the wider society.
“The Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services is an important part of that approach and helps guide government and the department to achieve better results.”