JICS faces various challenges and fundamental flaws, which hinder its effectiveness, which include:
Lack of independence:
- JICS is required to report to the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) – the very department that it is supposed to hold accountable. This undermines JICS’ independence, legitimacy and effectiveness.
- JICS’ CEO is appointed by the National Commissioner for Correctional Services, furthermore in the event of any misconduct or incapacity, the CEO must be referred to the National Commissioner for disciplinary action. Therefore, the CEO is beholden to the very entity that it is in charge of overseeing.
- JICS staff, except for the Inspecting Judge, are administratively part of DCS, and some are in fact former DCS officials.
- DCS is responsible for JICS’ expenses; JICS does not have an independent budget vote before Parliament and is therefore financially reliant on the department that it is intended to oversee. This allows for the Department to effectively hamstring JICS by denying it the resources it needs to hold the Department accountable.
Independent Correctional Centre Visitors (ICCVs) are appointed to regularly visit prisons and record inmates’ complaints. However, inmates are often unaware of how to access ICCVs and are unaware about JICS generally. Furthermore, ICCVs are dependent on DCS members for cooperation and security, and therefore may struggle to gain the trust and confidence of inmates.
JICS lacks sufficient resources, in terms of budgetary constraints as well as personnel shortages. As a result, the Inspecting Judge is only able to inspect each prison once every three years.
Limited powers and functions:
JICS’ powers and functions as set out in the Correctional Services Act (CSA) are vague and ill-defined. Although JICS is technically empowered to conduct investigations, it seems that it is actually set up primarily as an inspecting and reporting body rather than as an investigative, disciplinary or decision-making body. Though JICS can make recommendations, it does not have final and binding decision-making powers regarding the resolution of inmates’ complaints. This means that if the Department of Correctional Services refuses to implement JICS’ recommendations, there is nothing JICS can do to enforce them. This essentially means that JICS is a toothless body.