Ombudsman investigation into the Department for Correctional Services in relation to the restraining and shackling of prisoners in hospitals

19 Jul 2012

This report finds that South Australia's Department for Correctional Services has breached section 86 of the Correctional Services Act, by failing to adequately consider the individual circumstances of each prisoner in deciding whether to apply restraints in hospitals.

Key findings:

  • shackles should only be used in circumstances where there is a serious flight or security risk
  • restraints should only be used as a precaution against escape, harm to self or harm to others. Restraints should never be used as a form of punishment
  • when the circumstances justify the use of restraints, a soft form of restraint should be used. Chains should not be used
  • when the circumstances justify the use of restraints, the restraints must be used for the minimum time necessary, and a strict time limit must be placed on their use
  • pregnant women should never be restrained during labour. Further, they should not be restrained during:
    - transport to hospital
    - pre or post natal appointments
    - pre labour, early labour, or post labour recovery
    unless they pose a serious risk to themselves or others, or a substantial risk of escaping, and unless they cannot be restrained by any other means
  • all guards escorting pregnant women to hospital or to medical appointments should be female
  • guards should not be present when a woman is in labour and giving birth. They should be posted outside the door.

In managing the use of restraints, the rights and dignity of each individual prisoner must be carefully balanced with the public’s need for protection. The department should aim for best practice in relation to the treatment and management of prisoners, and its policies and practices should guard against the mistreatment of prisoners.

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