Praise for official visitors in prisons

Issued: Thursday, 6 November 2014

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The Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Brad Hazzard, today praised the work of the 52 Official Visitors in New South Wales prisons.

“Prisons have to be secure and safe, but they also need to be humane. Official Visitors are a vital part of that,” said Mr Hazzard.

Mr Hazzard was attending the Official Visitor Conference at the Corrective Services NSW Brush Farm Academy.

“Visiting prisons can be confronting but most Official Visitors come to love their work because of the assistance they’re able to provide, helping resolve issues at the correctional facility.”

Official Visitors are community representatives, appointed by the Minister for an initial period of up to two years. They report directly to him in writing twice a year, providing an independent view of conditions in correctional facilities and issues that are of concern to inmates and staff.

At the conference, the Official Visitors heard from the Inspector of Custodial Services John Paget and senior CSNSW staff including Commissioner Peter Severin. Subjects covered included services provided to Muslim inmates, inmates’ banking, and a forthcoming trial of remote video visits to prisons by families using video conferencing.

The Inspector of Custodial Services is responsible for overseeing the Official Visitor Program, and for advising, training and assisting the Official Visitors in the exercise of their functions.

The Official Visitors report to the Inspector on the risks and good practices found in the correctional environment. They also accompany the Inspector and his team on inspections to facilitate conversations with staff and inmates and to take enquiries not related to the inspection.

“On behalf of the community I thank our Official Visitors,” said Mr Hazzard.

“They are part of the system of checks and balances in prisons. They are my eyes and ears and often make a real difference in assisting changes in inmates who later transition back into the community.”