Making complaints about your treatment


I want to complain about my treatment – how do I do this?

Corrections Act 2004, ss 152-156; Corrections Regulations 2005, regs 160, 161; Prison Operations Manual, PC.01.01, 02

If you want to you can first make an informal complaint to your PCO (Principal Corrections Officer – the senior prison officer in your unit). The PCO may be able to deal with the problem quickly and informally.

If you want to make a formal complaint, you must put it in writing. If you tell a prison officer or your PCO that you want to make a complaint, they must give you a complaint form and offer to help you write the complaint if you want this. If you have any difficulties in communicating – whether speaking or writing – the prison staff must give you whatever help you need to make your complaint.

You can also make a complaint to a prison inspector (Inspector of Corrections), the Ombudsman or a Visiting Justice if you want someone from outside of the prison to investigate.

See “Support

Who will investigate the complaint?

If you’re complaining about an assault or other misconduct by a prison officer, the complaint will be investigated by the prison manager. Most other complaints will be investigated by your PCO.

If you make a complaint to someone outside the prison, like a prison inspector, a Visiting Justice or the Ombudsman, the organisation you made the complaint to will investigate the complaint.

Not all complaints are investigated by the Ombudsman and you will first need to go through the prisons internal complaints process (the PC.01 process). You may also need to make a complaint to an Inspector of Corrections before approaching the Ombudsman.

Does the prison have to investigate complaints?

Corrections Act 2004, ss 152, 153; Corrections Regulations 2005, regs 163, 165; Prison Operations Manual, PC.01.05

Yes. All complaints must be investigated fairly and properly, and as quickly as possible. The prison must also investigate in a way that’s culturally sensitive.

You must be kept updated on how your complaint is progressing.

However, prison managers can refuse to investigate a complaint if they believe it’s frivolous or vexatious (in other words, the issue is so unimportant that it’s not worth investigating or you’ve complained just to be annoying – for example, if you don’t like the colour of the walls in your cell or if you make 10 complaints every day).

If your complaint isn’t investigated you must be told this in writing. In that case you can still complain to an outside official – that is, to a prison inspector, a Visiting Justice, or the Ombudsman.

When they investigate, the prison must protect your identity, and only give out details of your identity as far as is necessary to enable them to investigate your complaint.

What if I have to give the complaint form to the person I’m complaining about?

Corrections Regulations 2005, reg 164

In that case just write the name of the person on the form, but don’t write any details about the complaint. As soon as the person sees that the complaint involves them, they must pass the form on to someone else, who will then ask for details about the complaint.

If you don’t want to give the form to the person who’s named on the complaint form, you can ask to see the prison manager or contact the prison inspector directly. You must be allowed to use a phone so that you can contact the prison inspector.

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Making complaints about your treatment

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide initial free legal advice and information.

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