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Ombudsman flooded with prisoner complaints

Thursday, 30 September 2004

Ombudsman flooded with prisoner complaints

Compensation payouts for mistreated prisoners could become more commonplace if the number of complaints by inmates to the Ombudsman are anything to go by, according to United Future justice spokesperson Murray Smith.

Official figures obtained by Mr Smith show that in the year to 30 June 2004, the Ombudsman received 2,607 complaints from prison inmates, making up 44% of a total of 5,878 complaints in the last year.

“Frankly, I was shocked to discover that so much of the Ombudsman’s resources are tied up in investigating prisoner complaints. According to the 2003 Annual Report, each case costs the Office $380 to investigate, amounting to an estimated $990,660 in the last year alone.”

Staff from the Office of the Ombudsman also visit each prison throughout the country on average 9 times each year.

“The volume of complaints from prisoners clearly suggests that the internal processes for resolving complaints at our prisons are failing.

“In the recent case of the inmates who successfully sued the Corrections Department, the Minister has confirmed through parliamentary questions that the prisoners did not exhaust all of the alternative avenues for complaint before taking their case to court.

“In developing new legislation to limit payouts for prisoners, the government should take up my colleague Marc Alexander’s suggestion that prisoners should be forced to take their complaints through internal prison procedures, before approaching the Ombudsman or starting legal proceedings.

“However, the number of complaints made should also raise serious concerns about the management and operation of state-run prisons.

“Whatever problems exist appear to be getting much worse, as the number of prisoner complaints to the Ombudsmen have also increased by 20% since 2000, when 2,170 were received,” said Mr Smith.

ENDS

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