Corrections Independent Support Officers
Corrections Independent Support Officers (CISO) provide assistance and support to prisoners with a diagnosed intellectual disability during disciplinary hearings, at all adult prisons in Victoria.
All CISOs are experienced volunteer Independent Third Persons (ITPs). OPA draws all volunteer CISOs from current ITPs and does not accept volunteers from outside this program.
A CISO actively participates in the disciplinary hearings process by:
- explaining to the prisoner what their rights are at a prison disciplinary hearing
- judging whether the prisoner understands their rights and can freely exercise them before the hearing can commence
- facilitating communication and supporting the prisoner through the hearing process.
The CISO program is currently limited to prisoners with a diagnosed intellectual disability and excludes those with cognitive impairment caused by other conditions, such as mental illness or an Acquired Brain Injury.
OPA is working with Corrections Victoria to:
- promote the CISO program and ensure every prisoner who is entitled to use it knows about it
- seek an extension of the program to cover all cognitive impairments
Prisoners with disability
People with disability are significantly over-represented in the prison population. A 2015 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report found that almost half of persons entering prison have a mental health issue, compared with 18 per cent of the general population.
The figures are even starker for Indigenous prisoners with 73 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and 86 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in prison having a diagnosed mental health condition.
A 2013 Australian study looking at cognitive disability found that up to 12% of the prison population has intellectual disability (compared to three per cent of the general population), and up to 30% has borderline intellectual disability. Almost 60 per cent of people with intellectual disability have severe communication limitations.