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Human rights in prisons or detention centres

We all have a right to be protected when in care or detention and to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. People living in detention – or care settings where their liberty is restricted – have limited control over their lives and choices and are more vulnerable to having their human rights abused or denied. This is a major issue that the Commission is committed to change.

The rights of people in closed environments are human rights

Prisons, detention centres and care settings where residents’ liberty is restricted, are sometimes referred to as ‘closed environments’.

People in closed environments still have rights under the Charter. However, they may be unaware of their rights, whether it be due to the nature of the setting, their age, disability or background.

People in closed environments may also lack the support and resources needed to assert their human rights.

Violating the rights of people in closed environments is against the law. Violations could include:

  • use of excessive force
  • inappropriate use of restraint
  • denial of cultural rights
  • disrespect for privacy and dignity in daily activities
  • separation from family
  • lack of access to news and connection with the community.

How the Commission works to protect the rights of people in closed environments

We are committed to protecting human rights in closed environments.

Our 2017-22 Strategic Plan, Upholding human rights close to home, will guide our work for the next five years to achieve our vision for a fair, safe and inclusive Victoria where everyone is respected and treated with dignity.

One of our four strategic priorities is to protect human rights in closed environments. Under this priority, we will:

  • raise awareness of the importance of human rights in closed environments and how individuals can assert their rights
  • identify and address the systems, structures and practices that result in unfair treatment, abuse or neglect in particular closed environments
  • assist in the implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) and its standards for monitoring places of detention.

In the five years we seek to:

  • ensure law and policy that regulates closed environments is better informed by human rights principles
  • help vulnerable individuals have a greater awareness of rights in closed environments and empower them so they better equipped to take action if their rights are violated
  • help institutions understand the benefits of human rights and make sure they are more committed to protecting the human rights of people in their care.

Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

In December 2017, the Australian Government joined an international agreement called the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).

By joining, Australia has agreed to meet international standards which aim to prevent cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment within closed environments.

From December 2017, Australia has been given a three-year period to introduce measures to fully comply with the agreement. An extra two years’ extension may be sought if necessary.

The implementation of this treaty presents an opportunity for us to significantly improve human rights protection of people in detention. We are committed to the effective implementation of OPCAT in Victoria.

The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities: A guide for Victorian public sector workers – Jan 2024

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Level 3, 204 Lygon Street Carlton Victoria 3053

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The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission acknowledges that we work on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We also work remotely and serve communities on the lands of other Traditional Custodians.

We pay our respects to their Elders past and present.