Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 October 2021) . . Page.. 2753 ..
the prisoner should be authorized to go, either under escort or alone, to the bedside of a near relative or significant other who is critically ill, or to attend the funeral of a near relative or significant other.
The escalation that led to the strip search of the female detainee on 11 January 2021, can be directly traced back to the refusal to allow this woman to attend the funeral of her grandmother and to attend to Sorry Business with her family and community. The request was declined, “on the basis of logical issues associated with the short notice of the application with full funeral details, including the date and time”. As everyone understands, deaths often happen suddenly. Funeral arrangements take days to organise and frequently come together with very short notice. Using an excuse of short notice as the reason to decline an application to attend the funeral of a close family member is absolutely disgraceful.
Here is the timeline of what happened, as outlined in the inspector’s report. The woman was informed of her grandmother’s death on Wednesday 6 January. On Thursday 7 January, she received assistance from an Indigenous liaison officer—an ILO—to fill out a leave application so she could attend the funeral. The application required the date and time of the funeral. At the time, the funeral details had not been confirmed, so the leave application could not be completed. On Friday, 8 January there were no ILOs on duty to follow-up on the application. At some point that day there was a request from the corrections officer to confirm that the funeral would be at 2 pm the following Tuesday. As there were no ILOs on duty to respond there was no confirmation. ILOs do not work on weekends.
Monday morning, 11 January, was the first opportunity for an ILO to follow-up on the leave application, which was completed and provided to the Deputy Commissioner, Custodial Operations. It was then decided that, due to staffing struggles, recent lockdowns and short notice, the application would be refused. To sum up, the detainee was told about her grandmother’s passing away on Wednesday. There were no confirmed details for the funeral on Thursday. There were no ILOs to assist with the application on Friday. No ILOs work on weekends. By Monday, when the application was completed, it was too late to be approved.
Based on this, I reject completely the attempt to blame the timing of the application, and instead suggest that the blame is squarely on the government for the short staffing and for not ensuring there were measures in place to advance an application to attend a funeral across three whole days. For a funeral far more effort should have been made to allow the application to be completed and brought to the attention of management in a timelier way. I call on the minister to detail what special or beyond-the-call-of-duty measures, if any, were taken to try to get this woman to the funeral of her dear grandmother.
Rule 95 says:
Systems of privileges appropriate for the different classes of prisoners and the different methods of treatment shall be established at every prison, in order to encourage good conduct, develop a sense of responsibility and secure the interest and cooperation of prisoners in their treatment.