9.6 Custody and male prison officers

(Custody issues involving male prison officers in prisons for women)

A number of women told the ADCQ they were concerned about privacy and other issues for female prisoners who are supervised by male prison officers. The concerns were:

  • male officers who work night shift had responsibility for looking through the window of a cell when a women prisoner was asleep in her cell. With the hot Queensland climate, and non air-conditioned cells, women may on occasions not be fully covered when viewed by prison officers. The ADCQ agrees that it is inappropriate for male officers to be assigned this responsibility, and that night shift inspections should be conducted only by female officers;
  • women who were placed in observation cells, particularly those in CSU cells, those in DU cells, and in the health centre, are all under observation by camera surveillance 24 hours a day. The women were concerned that male officers were assigned this responsibility, with no regard for a women's privacy. This concern was most acute when women were held in the padded cell at the CSU, as they were detained without clothing and were totally naked when held in this cell (almost all women in this situation would be being observed at the minimum every 15 minutes);
  • certain specific allegations made to the ADCQ raising potentially unlawful conduct have been referred to the Crime and Misconduct Commission;
  • allegations have been made to the ADCQ that due to a shortage of female officers, male officers have been involved in strip-searches in the CSU.

The Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners states that women prisoners shall be attended and supervised only by women officers.[201]  International instruments require women prisoners to be supervised by women staff, and if male staff are employed, they should never be in the sole control of women and there should always be a female member of staff present.[202] The ADCQ agrees that male officers should not be assigned the responsibility of conducting regular observations of women in observation units, or of conducting inspections of women at night. In particular, the ADCQ is of the view that male officers should not be working within the CSU in women's prisons.

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Endnotes

201. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, See note 102, Rule 53.

202. A Coyle, See note 155.