On January 22, 2022, the Official Visitor Scheme (OVS) commenced operation within South Australian Correctional Institutions. The Official Visitors (OV) have a legislated role under Section 20 of the Correctional Services Act, 1982 (the Act) and are independent, monitoring the operation of prisons.
The Official Visitors Scheme was a commitment made by the South Australian Parliament to meet the requirements of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). OPCAT is an International Treaty adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 2002.
Official Visitors are appointed by the Governor of South Australia (Governor) in Executive Council and report to the Minister under section 20 G of the Act. They have the responsibility for conducting inspections of all DCS prisons (correctional institutions and facilities). Additionally, they receive complaints by prisoners, advocate for prisoners, and provide advice and recommendations on prison management, quality, care and treatment of prisoners to the Minister and the Chief Executive (CE).
Functions of the OV under section 20D of the Act:
- to receive any complaint of a prisoner in the correctional institution;
- to act as an advocate for prisoners in the correctional institution to promote the proper resolution of issues relating to the care, treatment or control of the prisoners;
- to conduct visits to the correctional institution as required or authorised under this Division;
- to conduct inspections of the correctional institution as required or authorised under this Division;
- to promote the best interests of prisoners in the correctional institution;
- to inquire into, investigate and provide advice to the Minister or the CE on any matter relating to the management of the correctional institution, or the care, treatment or control of the prisoners, either on the official visitor's own initiative or on referral by the Minister or the CE;
- to make recommendations to the Minister or the CE on any matter for the purposes of improving the quality of care, treatment or control of prisoners in the correctional institution;
- to enquire into systemic or serious issues;
- Consider the needs and circumstances of prisoners who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait islander or have a physical, psychological, or intellectual disability.
- any other functions assigned to the official visitor under this or any other Act.