Contributed by AndrewRobson and current to 27 July 2018

Prisoners are required to promptly obey orders given by prison officers. If the prisoner has a complaint, he or she should obey the order but may raise a complaint later (Prison Regulations, Reg 40). The prisoner should raise complaints (for example about procedures, other prisoners, food or officers) with their Unit Officer or Unit Manager initially. If the prisoner is not satisfied that the complaint has been dealt with appropriately, he or she should apply to the Unit Manager requesting to speak to the Superintendent.

There are several ways that a person in prison can make a complaint, as set out below:


ACCESS is the Department of Corrective Services team which receives and investigates complaints about a service, action or inaction by the Department or one of its employees.

ACCESS can be contacted by email (, telephone (1300 306 922), the web, fax (08 9264 1748) or mail (Private and Confidential - ACCESS PO Box Z5124, St Georges Terrace PERTH WA 6831).

Independent Visitors

The Inspector of Custodial Services provides an independent visitors scheme under Part 6 of the Inspector of Custodial Scheme Services Act 2003 (WA). The Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services coordinates the Schemes on behalf of the Minister for Justice.

Section 40(1)(a) of the Inspector of Custodial Services Act 2003 states that Visitors will visit and inspect the prison at intervals of not more than 3 months. A roster system to ensure regular visits are made is maintained by the coordinator of the Scheme.

Independent Prison Visitors, who are volunteers, have five main interconnected functions:
  • To provide a safeguard for the wellbeing and rights of prisoners;
  • To provide information to prisoners concerning access to prison services such as prisoner grievance procedures and information on prisoner and community support agencies;
  • To speak on behalf of prisoners, when asked, to senior prison officers and/or the Prison Superintendent;
  • To record any complaint made by a prisoner or prison officer;
  • To document and detail what happened during an independent visit.

Inspector of Custodial Services

The Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services also carries out comprehensive inspections of all individual prisons in the state, as well as ‘thematic reviews’ of prison services, that is assessments of system-wide issues.

Inspection reports are tabled in Parliament and are available from the Office’s website:

Minister and Executive Director

A prisoner can write to the Minister or the Chief Executive Officer and receive a reply from them without the letter being opened for scrutiny by the prison if the prisoner is not satisfied with the way the prison administration has dealt with his or her complaint.

WA Ombudsman

The Ombudsman can investigate the administrative actions of any public authority including prisons (but not the Parole Board). The Ombudsman is limited to making recommendations and reporting to Parliament. The Ombudsman cannot, however, enforce the recommendations.

The Ombudsman will investigate complaints made by prisoners. This usually means the Ombudsman will write to the Chief Executive Officer advising of the complaint and seeking an explanation. Alternatively, the Ombudsman may speak directly to the Superintendent and may decide to visit the prisoner to discuss the complaint with the prisoner.

The Ombudsman has considerable powers to investigate such matters fully. Complaints to the Ombudsman should be in writing. Letters by prisoners to and from the Ombudsman are not subject to scrutiny by the prison administration.

Equal Opportunity Commission

Other avenues available to prisoners may include making a complaint to either the Equal Opportunity Commission of Western Australia (EOC) or the Federal Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC). If a prisoner feels that they are being treated differently because of any of the grounds of unlawful discrimination set out under the state or federal anti-discrimation laws, such as race or religion, they may lodge a complaint with the EOC or HREOC.

Laying of charges

If a prisoner considers that another prisoner or an officer has committed an offence against him or her the prisoner should raise the matter with the prison administration.

The police may be contacted to take the complaint from a prisoner and if necessary to lay charges.

Authorised absences from prison

Permits to be absent from prison

The objectives for granting a prisoner a permit to be absent from prison are as follows:
  1. the rehabilitation of prisoners and the successful reintegration of prisoners into the community; and
  2. the compassionate or humane treatment of prisoners and their families; and
  3. the facilitation of the provision of medical or health services to prisoners; and
  4. the furthering of the interests of justice.
An absence permit may be granted for a purpose or in circumstances prescribed in the regulations; or to deal with circumstances that are, in the chief executive officer’s opinion, exceptional, and not for any other reason.

Examples, where a permit has been granted, include visiting a near relative who the Chief Executive Officer has reason to believe is dangerously ill and attending the funeral of a near relative.

All prisoners are eligible to apply for a permit for absence. The permit can be for a period of up to 36 hours but is usually granted for only a few hours.

When considering whether to grant an absence permit, the conditions or restrictions of a permit and whether or what supervision arrangements are to be made if the permit is granted, the chief executive officer must consider the safety and interests of the public.

In the case of prisoners subject to the Criminal Law (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act 1996, the application is to be processed normally and forwarded to the Director, Sentence Management in the first instance. The Director, Sentence Management will forward the application to the Mentally Impaired Accused Review Board for its consideration.

Re-integration leave

Up to 12 months before their release a prisoner may be granted leave to visit a friend or relation. The leave is programmed, increasing from 12 hours per month (6 – 12 prior to release) to 24 hours per month (1 – 6 months prior to release) and up to 72 hours in the last month prior to release.

Prisoner Employment Program

There is a Prisoner Employment Program which allows prisoners in their last 12 months before release to engage in employment-related activities in the community. Paid employment may only occur in the last six months prior to a prisoner’s potential release date.

Re-entry Release Orders

Part 4 of the Sentence Administration Act 2003 provides for the making by the Parole Board of Re-entry Release Orders to enable prisoners to be released into the community prior to their release date to undertake work, educational or behavioural programs.

The scope of activities envisaged by such orders is considerably broader than those previously available under Work Release Orders under the 1995 legislation.

A prisoner who is not serving a sentence of life or indefinite imprisonment may apply for an RRO after he/she has served more than 12 months of their sentence in custody and is within six months of release either to parole or to freedom. The Parole Board must be satisfied that the prisoner is a person whose release would pose a low risk to the personal safety of people in the community or of any individual in the community (s52 Sentence Administration Act 2003).

There are standard obligations relating to a RRO which include:
  • reporting to Community Corrections Officer (CCO);
  • completing prescribed amounts of community corrections activities;
  • the prisoner may not leave the State and must not change address without notifying the designated CCO (s55) In addition, a RRO must contain at least one of the following:
  • the prisoner must seek or engage in gainful employment or vocational training or engage in gratuitous work for an organization approved by the CEO;
  • the prisoner must engage in activities as ordered by the CEO that will facilitate his/her re-entry to the community, such as attending educational or vocational or personal development programs or undergo counselling in relation to behavioural matters (s56)
In general, a RRO could also require monitoring devices to be worn by the prisoner or installed in their home; and supervision by a CCO until the Parole Board is satisfied that this is no longer required (s57).

A prisoner who has completed his/her obligations under the RRO will have served their time and will be discharged from their sentence of imprisonment, while prisoners eligible for parole will have their case considered by the Parole Board.

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