Over two years ago, Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass tabled her report, Investigation into the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners in Victoria. That report recommended a whole-of-government approach as central to successfully reintegrating Victorian prisoners into the community, and reducing recidivism. Highlighting the solution was not to build more prisons, Ombudsman Glass called for a re-evaluation of the effectiveness of our correctional systems through exploring alternative approaches that have been successful in changing offending behaviour and reducing reoffending.
Two years later and what has changed?
Last year the Australian Government announced its intention to ratify the OPCAT treaty, and the issue of rehabilitation and reintegration remains an ever-present issue.
Ombudsman Glass decided to investigate what OPCAT would mean by conducting an independent inspection of Victoria’s main women’s prison, the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, against OPCAT’s rigorous standards. The investigation also looked at Victoria’s preparedness for OPCAT.
The inspection assessed the prison’s conditions and practices and found a routine use of strip searching and a high incidence of force and restraint in the prison. Many women prisoners are victims of sexual abuse and such practices can inflict further trauma and undermine the prison’s rehabilitation programs.
OPCAT inspections help ensure the effectiveness of prisons in promoting rehabilitation, reducing recidivism and increasing community safety. While it will cost money to ensure Australia has properly resourced bodies to carry out inspections and to implement recommendations, it costs far more to deal with the consequences of ill-treatment. Such inspections could make the difference between supporting rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners and building yet another prison.
Ms Deborah Glass
Biography: The Victorian Ombudsman is Deborah Glass OBE. She was appointed in March 2014 for a term of 10 years.
Deborah was raised in Melbourne where she studied law at Monash University.
Deborah practiced law briefly in the city, before joining a US investment bank in Switzerland in 1985. She was appointed to the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission at its inception in 1989, where she became Senior Director, instrumental in raising standards in the investment management industry.
Deborah moved to London in 1998 where she became the Chief Executive of the Investment Management Regulatory Organisation. In 2001, she joined the UK Police Complaints Authority, and in 2004 became a Commissioner with the new Independent Police Complaints Commission of England and Wales (IPCC). She was the Commissioner responsible for London, and for many high profile criminal and misconduct investigations into police conduct. Deborah was appointed IPCC Deputy Chair in 2008, carrying operational responsibility for the IPCC’s regional Commissioners, and was awarded an OBE for her service in the New Year Honours List in 2012.
Deborah is committed to ensuring fair and reasonable decision making in the Victorian public sector, and to improving public administration. She holds a firm belief in public sector integrity and the protection of human rights.