Use of force

Force is not used as a means of punishment. Force can only be used once prison staff have exhausted every effort to defuse a situation peacefully without the need for force.

The use of physical force is limited to the minimum degree reasonable and necessary to resolve a situation as promptly and as safely as possible. It can only be used if there are reasonable grounds to believe the use of force is necessary. Examples of this include: in self-defence, in the case of an escape, to prevent property damage or resistance to a lawful order.

The methods of physical intervention we use are internationally recognised as quick, efficient and safe. The level of force used is dependent on the situation and the degree of resistance given by the offender. Control and restraint is the name of the intervention strategy we use to bring a person under control.

Control and restraint

Control and restraint involves the use of approved techniques to bring a person under control. It’s used in situations where it’s likely that a person will:

  • cause injury to themselves or others
  • cause a disturbance likely to incite a larger disturbance in the area
  • produce a weapon
  • be a threat to themselves or to the safety of others.

After control and restraint has been used, the person is removed from the situation using a technique called controlled removal.

Pepper spray

Pepper spray can be the least harmful way of responding, by temporarily incapacitating the person, making it easier and safer to restrain and relocate them. Once compliant, the prisoner is relocated, decontaminated and assessed by health staff for any unexpected reaction.

Permission to use force

Whenever practical before the use of force, approval from the prison manager or an authorised manager must be given.

The use of force is only considered when all other reasonable alternatives have been attempted or, in extreme circumstances, when all other reasonable alternatives are considered inappropriate due to the nature of the situation. It’s discontinued at the first safe opportunity once control is regained.

After force is used

The prisoner is normally placed into a safe cell away from the incident area and is monitored every 15 minutes until their at-risk status has been reviewed.

Within three hours after the incident, they are examined by a registered health professional and interviewed by prison management.

Staff who were involved in the use of force meet immediately after the incident. They have access to medical, emotional and psychological support and the prison's post incident response team.

How we record incidents

Each prison has a register to record each incident involving the use of force.

Information recorded in the register includes:

  • the name of the person who authorised the use of force
  • details of the incident
  • intervention strategies used prior to the use of force
  • details of the type of force used
  • the result.

Any security camera footage of the incident is also saved as evidence.

After an incident a review is carried out to consider whether the situation was handled in the most appropriate way and what circumstances led to the situation. The review also looks at strategies to avoid future situations that led to the use of force.

Staff training

All custodial staff are trained in the use of physical holds to restrain a person.

Physical holds can only be used by staff members with adequate training in the use of that hold. All staff must undergo refresher courses at least every 12 months. Each of these training sessions reinforces legal requirements and principles underpinning the use of force