Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lawless behaviour by by law-enforcement officials

GUARDS at Victoria's largest women's prison were told by experienced officers to break rules, conducted improper strip searches and falsified records, according to secret prison documents. The documents, obtained by The Age, detail concerns raised in October 2006 by new prison officers at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre. They included a complaint about inhumane policies that may have caused prisoners to harm themselves. The Age can also reveal that Victoria's ombudsman has spent several months investigating allegations of poor practices in the maximum-security jail, which can house up to 260 female prisoners.

The revelations come two months after Channel Nine aired secret files detailing claims that a few guards at the Deer Park prison had inappropriate sexual relationships with prisoners in 2003.

As part of the ombudsman's inquiry, investigators have interviewed a former senior prison manager who claims she was bullied after encouraging a fellow employee to raise concerns about staff involvement in contraband smuggling. The former senior prison manager told The Age that after arranging a meeting between the staff member and the general manager of women's prison, Brendan Money, in late 2006, the manager was ostracised and told to find a new job. She resigned from the prison last month. In a statement written late last year, Mr Money confirmed that the senior manager helped another staff member raise corruption concerns, but said they were unfounded. He denied that the senior manager had been bullied and said there had been performance issues.

The October 2006 documents reveal that when an officer was asked to describe a situation that had made them uncomfortable, a prison officer complained that an experienced officer had directed them "to do something you know is against procedures". Other guards said they had been "a second officer for a strip search which was not completed in accordance with procedures", and had recorded perimeter fence checks as being completed when in fact "they were not even conducted". One staff member said they had been ordered to treat a prisoner in a manner "which is in accordance with procedures but seems inhumane", and had to deal "with the consequence of that prisoner self-harming straight after you have completed the task".

When asked to list what they found most difficult at work, prison staff nominated: "When policies and procedures override humanity, there is inconsistency in the way that procedures are applied, people take short cuts." One prison guard criticised the lack of "direction, training, leadership, coaching, support in situations where you are working in a place for the first time". Other concerns included the flawed checking of prisoner numbers and cells, and a poisonous working environment in which staff talked about their sex lives, bullied others and refused to do work.

Victoria's Corrections Commissioner, Kelvin Anderson, said some of the conduct discussed in the 2006 documents appeared to be inappropriate, but stressed Victoria's prison system was humane. Not surprisingly, he said, when new staff arrived they found that existing staff had worked out "some short-cut ways" of doing things. "Our job is to stop that short-cut way of doing things," he said. "We go and look for those sort of inconsistencies so we can target our training and reinforce what we don't want done."

A separate departmental memo from December 2006, also obtained by The Age, raises concerns about staff training, saying: "There are a number of inconsistencies in the way we conduct urines (drug testing), searches, escorts and work in the gatehouse. "Some people do not follow Director's Instructions (perhaps because they don't know what they are)."


Policegoons in Queensland

No surprise to any Queenslander who has been around a bit

Police are investigating claims an officer tasered a handcuffed man three times in the Cleveland watchhouse last year to "shut him up". Three other complaints about police using the 50,000-volt stun guns inappropriately had been referred to the service's internal investigation unit, police said. Ethical Standards Command investigators dismissed one complaint against an officer who pulled out a Taser but did not fire it, according to a police spokeswoman.

Two matters are still under investigation and the other is subject to court proceedings, she said. Police Minister Judy Spence last month controversially announced a statewide rollout of Tasers to all frontline police despite being barely halfway through a 12-month trial. Ms Spence released only limited trial results and immediately faced heavy criticism from lawyers and civil libertarians who feared the weapons would become the standard police response even in non-dangerous situations.

Police have pulled out Tasers 128 times since the trial began in July last year, shooting them about 60 per cent of the time, according to police. The Tasers store data of the exact time, date, and duration of each shot.

Last August, police arrested concreter Nathan Brown, 23, near the Alexandra Hills Hotel and locked him in a cell at the Cleveland watchhouse. Mr Brown pleaded guilty to assault, assaulting police and being a public nuisance. However, he has claimed in a signed statement believed to have been given to investigators that he was tasered three times while handcuffed in the watchhouse. His sister Rebecca, 18, who was locked up that night after attempting to make an official complaint that police arresting her brother punched him, also gave an eyewitness statement.

Mr Brown admitted he lost control when police locked his sister up so he began "using aggressive language", telling officers to release her because she had done nothing wrong. "A policeman unlocked my cell to what I thought was going to be frisked-processed while still handcuffed and during this process I was hit with a Taser gun three times in a row by an older policeman," he said, according to the statement. Mr Brown's father Bryan, who has given statements to investigating officers, said about a week after the alleged incident he spoke to the officer who tasered his son. The officer said "it shut him up, didn't it?", and hung up, he said.

Police confirmed the ethical standards investigation was ongoing.


Bosses less likely to have cancer: Australian study

The stuff below is just a data dedging operation accompanied by a whole heap of speculation. Data dredging is when you look at a heap of data and highlight whatever differences you find there -- ignoring the fact that there will be a lot of differences there by chance alone. But that bosses are healthier is no surprise. That middle class people are healthier generally is a very common finding

Managers are less likely to have cancer, while shop assistants have a greater chance of suffering back pain and nurses have a higher rate of heart disease, according to a new Australian study. The survey, which is published Monday in the Medical Journal of Australia, analysed the records of more than 4,200 workers aged between 45 and 64 and found that about two-thirds had a medical condition.

It found that older workers with chronic conditions were more likely to be employed in certain industries such as retail, and health and community services, researcher Deborah Schofield said. "In the retail trade there was a significantly higher risk of musculoskeletal conditions -- so that's things like back injuries, or if you've injured your shoulder or arthritis," she told AFP on Sunday. "And then cardiovascular disease came out significantly higher in health and community services."

Schofield said that these findings jarred with the expectation that more muscle or bone injuries would be among construction workers or those in the transport, forestry or agriculture sectors where heavy lifting was required. "But, in fact, the reverse is what we found," she said.

"What we think happens is that retail, being part-time and not too heavy an occupation, that people, if they have those sort of injuries, (it means) they can remain in the workforce," she said.

Interpreting the data regarding cancer was also difficult. By occupation, the study found that the relative risk of a manager having neoplasms, or cancerous tumours, was found to be 0.25 compared to 0.40 for a tradesperson and 0.74 for labourers. "We don't know of any reason why they (managers) would be at lower risk as a result of being in that occupation," said Schofield, who is an associate professor at Sydney University, "What we think is that it may be that if you do have cancer that you're in secure jobs with very good sick leave arrangements so you're in a position to take time out of the workforce if you need to."

Schofield said it was possible that bosses sitting up in their corner offices were less exposed to carcinogens than other workers but this could not be proven. "So we don't think that you are necessarily, if you're in those jobs, less likely to get cancer. It's possibly more to do with your work arrangements when and if that does happen," she said.

Schofield said it was likely that illness forced people out of jobs, which resulted in lower rates of diseases in some industries. "This would seem to be the case for occupations such as tradespersons and labourers," which had low levels of all the medical conditions surveyed, she said.


More details here. Journal abstract here

Health watchdogs only interested in paperwork

OFFICIALS did not hear the cries of a dying man during a federal investigation into a fatal disease outbreak at a Melbourne nursing home last year because they never left the facility's office, preferring to check paperwork rather than patients.

Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot yesterday accused the former government of sitting on a report by the Aged Care Commissioner into the Broughton Hall nursing home outbreak for nine months. A summary of the report by Aged Care Commissioner Rhonda Parker, filed in May last year and tabled in parliament yesterday, revealed that departmental staff sent to investigate a gastroenteritis outbreak, which eventually killed five people, checked only the nursing home's paperwork and not its residents.

One nursing home resident, Merson Dunstan, who later died, had cried out for help during a departmental visit to Broughton Hall in April last year. But Ms Parker found his calls were not heard because the staff never left the nursing home's office. The departmental staff cited the need to respect infection control protocols for the failure to check on the physical state of residents.

Ms Elliot promised a strengthening of departmental guidelines in order to prevent a repeat of the mistake. "While it does not bring the matter to a close, I hope it is a step forward for the Dunstan family," she said. "It must have been a frustrating and indeed sad nine months for the Dunstan family, and our thoughts are with them as they face the coroner's investigation."

An Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency audit on Broughton Hall following the deaths said staff had not known what to do in the event of an outbreak, which delayed reporting and identification of the disease. It found other problems with staff training and in clinical-care management and evacuation procedures at the home.

Then ageing minister Christopher Pyne released the audit results last year, a month before he received the Aged Care Commissioner's report. He said at the time that the audit showed direct links between the breaches and the five deaths at Broughton Hall. Yesterday, Mr Pyne told parliament he had been grievously misrepresented by the new minister's claim that he had done nothing with Ms Parker's report, saying it had fed into later investigations. "Those parts of the report that were germane to the Department of Health and Ageing, which I was a part of, I asked to be implemented," he said.

Ms Elliot hand-delivered a copy of the Aged Care Commissioner's summary report to the Dunstan family earlier this month, but she said the full report could not be released publicly because of Privacy Act considerations. The Dunstan family said through Ms Elliot's office that they were declining comment on the matter. Ms Elliot said guidelines for nurses investigating clinical care in nursing homes were being revised with the help of state, territory and local health authorities. They would provide more specific pointers on how to identify potential problems, she said.


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