If an officer thinks a prison offence has occurred they have to write a report and submit that to a designated “disciplinary officer”. The disciplinary officer is usually the security supervisor or a supervisor who is not a witness or involved in the matter. The disciplinary officer may investigate the matter, interview witnesses, and offer the person involved a chance to give an explanation for the offence. The disciplinary officer must therefore advise the prisoner what he or she is supposed to have done with enough detail so the prisoner is given a reasonable opportunity to make an explanation if they want to say anything.
The disciplinary officer may decide the offence is trivial or decide that no offence has been committed. If the disciplinary officer proceeds with a charge, it must be made in writing and a copy given to the Prison Manager and to the person charged as soon as possible. If you are ‘separated’ and put in the slot pending investigation you will lose privileges because you are in the slot.
If a disciplinary officer thinks that an offence has been committed, they can:
- reprimand you
- remove one of your privileges for less than 14 days
- charge you with a prison offence, or
- take steps to have the matter dealt with under the criminal law
You can be charged with a prison offence and an offence under the criminal law by the police for the same matter. If a matter is being investigated by the police, prison officers will act as agents of the police in that investigation when conducting strip searches to examine your body for marks, take your clothing to give to the police, and ask you questions. You do not have the same rights as a person being interviewed by the police if prison officers are dealing with you.
If you are charged with a prison offence you will appear before the Prison Manager in a disciplinary hearing. This is an informal hearing not bound by the rules of evidence but "the broader principles of fairness are to be upheld". You can:
a) call witnesses, though:
- this must be by written request
- the General Manager (or delegate) may disallow a nominated witness from appearing, but must record the reasons for doing so
- a witness can not be forced to give evidence
b) examine and cross examine witnesses
c) be represented by another prisoner if you require and if the General Manager allows, but not by a lawyer
Efforts must be made to provide you with an interpreter if you cannot understand English, and consideration must be made to those with cognitive or intellectual impairments.
If it would be unfair for some reason for the particular manager to hear the charge, it can be referred to another General Manager. You can request (from the Secretary) that another manager hears the charge.
How the Disciplinary Hearings run
You should be given enough time and information about the charge to present a defence to the charge. The disciplinary officer is to provide you with written notice about the hearing at least 72 hours in advance unless otherwise agreed, detailing:
- the alleged prison offence
- the informant
- the time, date, and place of the hearing
- procedure of a disciplinary hearing
- the name of the General Manager (or delegate) that will hear the matter
Charges may be heard in your absence as if you pleaded not guilty. You should be advised of the outcome of the hearing.
Governors’ Hearing Penalties
If you plead guilty or the prison offence is proved, they may
- reprimand you;
- fine you up to $100; or
- withdraw one or more of your privileges for up to 14 days for each charge, but collectively not more than 30 days.
The General Manager may also:
- dismiss you from work
- if all privileges are withdrawn, make an order for your separation
- make an order for restitution
Fines can be recovered from your money held by the prison. If you plead guilty the Hearing Officer must consider factors in your favour when deciding on a penalty. All information about breaches of prison discipline is contained in your IMP file and may impact on classification, leaves of absence or parole.
There is no right to appeal a disciplinary decision, but see fact sheet #23: Judicial review, as there is a limited right to judicial review. A complaint about a Governor’s Hearing may also be made to the Ombudsman who can investigate the proceeding. The Prison Manager and Operations Manager are responsible for informing you of your right to complain.
This fact sheet contains general information only and is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice. If you would like advice regarding a specific problem please contact one of the legal services listed in contacts or contact the Law Institute of Victoria's Legal Referral Service on 9607 9311.