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Mental health care

Information about the kinds of mental health care that can be provided in prison and who is responsible for giving the mental health care.

Psychiatric health care services

Psychiatric health care services, including the management and provision of services within the Acute Assessment Unit at the Melbourne Assessment Prison (MAP) are provided by Forensicare. Forensicare also provides specialist mental health services at Dam Phyllis Frost Centre, Metropolitan Remand Centre. They have an outreach service to other prisons.

Prisoners who are provided with psychiatric services may not necessarily be returned to the accommodation or prison they were transferred from.

Prisoners who are given P1 Alert (Psych 1) can only be accommodated in MAP or Dame Phyllis Frost prisons. Those categorised as P2 alerts may also be housed at Metropolitan Remand Centre or Port Phillip Prison.

Note: Resources and time to perform psychiatric and medical assessments are often extremely limited.

Right to obtain psychiatric reports

Prisoners have a right to view copies of their psychiatric reports. A prisoner can make an application under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic).

See s. 47(1)(f)—Corrections Act 1986 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and How to apply under FOI.

Mental health care services

Psychiatric care is available at each prison site. Specialist services are available at the:

  • Psycho-Social Unit at Port Phillip Prison
  • Acute Assessment Unit at MAP.
  • Dame Phyllis Frost Centre.

Voluntary and compulsory patients

An authorised psychiatrist may recommend a mental health transfer for a prisoner, and they may be admitted as a voluntary or compulsory patient to the Thomas Embling Hospital.

See Mental health—Assessment process (being diagnosed with a mental illness).

Relevant case

Kracke v Mental Health Review Board

Facts: The applicant was under an involuntary treatment order to take psychotropic medication. He did not like the side-effects and had been trying unsuccessfully to convince the medical authorities to let him stop taking them. There were delays in reviewing the decision and the applicant sought to raise charter issues claiming his human rights had been breached and that the orders made to force him to take the medication were invalid.

Held: The Board breached the applicant's human rights under the Charter by failing to review his involuntary treatment order on time.

See: Kracke v Mental Health Review Board & Ors (General) [2009] VCAT 646(opens in a new window).

Medical, psychiatric or ‘at risk’ prisoners

Prison managers may separate a prisoner pending medical examination where this is considered necessary. This prisoner must be seen as soon as possible and within 24 hours.

The prison may restrict privileges to ensure safety and welfare of the prisoner. Separation will continue if this is advised by the medical specialist who conducts the examination.

Any prisoner considered to be ‘at risk’ must be seen by an appropriate medical officer within 2 hours.

What is meant by 'at risk'?

At risk means that the prisoner is considered to be at immediate or significant risk of suicide or self-harm in the opinion of a staff member. The continuation of the placement ‘at risk’ is subject to the advice of the medical officer and decisions of a Risk Review Team (RRT).

See DCI 1.02 At Risk procedures in Deputy Commissioner's Instructions.

More information


Corrections Act 1986 (Vic)

  • s. 20(2)—an officer in charge of prisoners must take all reasonable steps for the safe custody and welfare of the prisoners
  • s. 47 (1)(b)-(h)—prisoner's right to have access to reasonable medical care and treatment necessary for the preservation of health including (with approval from the principal medical officer) a private registered medical practitioner, dentist, physiotherapist or chiropractor chosen by the prisoner

See Corrections Act 1986 (Vic)(opens in a new window).


Corrections, Prisons and parole

See Corrections, Prisons & Parole—Mental Health Care(opens in a new window).

Deputy Commissioner's Instructions

The following instruction from the Deputy Commissioner sets out the ways that prison maximises the safety of vulnerable annd at risk prisoners:

  • DCI 1.02 At risk procedures

See Deputy Commissioner's Instructions.