The Department of Corrections today released the findings of an independent investigation into allegations of corruption at Rimutaka Prison.
Chief Executive Barry Matthews says he is pleased the independent and rigorous investigation, conducted by Barrister David Patten, found no evidence of systematic corruption at Rimutaka Prison.
This follows the 2005 Ombudsman's investigation which found neither systemic ill-treatment of prisoners or abuses of power, nor any culture within prison staff for abuse of prisoners.
In the course of his investigation Mr Patten interviewed 48 prison staff, 13 regional staff, a number of Head Office personnel and nine prisoners.
"However, the investigation did find a culture existed at Rimutaka Prison which allowed some individual instances of alleged corruption to occur," says Mr Matthews.
"Rather than waiting for the completion of the investigation, the Department dealt with these instances immediately and, if appropriate, they were referred the Police for further investigation."
Mr Matthews says many of the issues identified in the investigation, including culture and management of the Prison, have already been addressed through the Rimutaka Improvement Project which started in October 2006 and centred on supplying additional support and training for staff and managers at the Prison. Changes have also been made in the management structure within Prisons to better support prison operations, especially in situations of high pressure such as the recent unprecedented muster growth. These changes include the introduction of nine new Assistant Regional Manager roles (3 per region) including one for the Wellington area.
Mr Matthews acknowledged there have been problems at the Prison. However there was absolutely no excuse for corrupt or unethical staff behaviour.
"The Department will continue to deal swiftly and decisively with any staff member found guilty of this type of misconduct," says Mr Matthews.
"I am pleased Mr Patten noted in his report that Corrections has responded appropriately when it found any instance of suspect behaviour."
Mr Matthews says he was disappointed that a number of the original complainants were unwilling to cooperate with the investigation.
"I find it a little strange that these complainants were unwilling to provide information to Mr Patten because they allegedly feared for their safety but were, nevertheless, willing to speak to the media on an identified basis.
"However, their allegations, which were very broad, were thoroughly investigated and found to have no substance."
Mr Matthews says undertaking an independent investigation was important because the allegations were serious and the public needed to have confidence in the integrity and professionalism of the Prison Service.
"The public can be assured the overwhelming majority of Corrections staff perform their duties with professionalism, integrity and commitment. However, there is always potential for unethical behaviour to occur in the prison environment because staff are managing some of the most manipulative people in our society,” says Mr Matthews.
"To help combat this risk, I have established a Professional Standards Unit as part of my 2007 review of the Department’s structure. This Unit will undertake proactive and reactive investigations into instances of suspected corrupt activities on my behalf.”
In addition, the Department is building its intelligence capability know as Crime Prevention Information Capability, or CPIC for short, which will focus on uncovering criminal activities undertaken by prisoners.
"CPIC will ensure intelligence information is fully researched, developed and analysed and is based on international best-practice."
Mr Matthews says all officers receive training on how to handle challenging situations and what avenues are available to them if they feel they are being pressured or think they may have been compromised.
"Unfortunately there will always be a few individuals who succumb to the challenges of working in this type of environment."
Mr Matthews thanked the staff and others who co-operated with the investigation.
"It will be a relief to all to bring this investigation to its conclusion and for a semblance of normalcy to return to the site."
Rimutaka Prison, opened in 1967, is one of New Zealand’s largest prisons, with capacity to accommodate 1,055 prisoners and employs over 450 staff.
Prisoners accommodated at Rimutaka include prisoners on remand as well as prisoners with security classifications ranging from minimum to high-medium.
Part of the Wellington Region, Rimutaka Prison includes a Maori Focus Unit, a 40-bed Youth Unit, a Drug Treatment Unit and New Zealand’s only Faith Based Unit and Violence Prevention Unit.
The Rimutaka Improvement Project was established in October 2006 to support and enhance capability at that site. It was necessary because of the rapid expansion at that site in recent years, including the growth in prisoner numbers and recruitment of new staff. Since July 2002 prison numbers have grown by close to 80 percent and staff numbers have increased by over 80 percent over the same period. This rapid growth has impacted on the level of skills and experience on the site.
The aims of the project were to:
During its life the project also developed an officer induction programme, assisted with resolving issues in the Youth Unit and provided support to the Corrections Staff College. In addition, experienced corrections officers and managers from around the country were brought into the Prison to share their experiences and offer support and mentoring to staff and managers.
The project was completed in October 2007 and as planned has now transitioned back to business as usual.
Changes have been made in the management structure within Prisons to better support prison operations, especially in situations of high pressure such as the recent unprecedented muster growth. These changes include the introduction of nine new Assistant Regional Manager roles (3 per region) including one for the Wellington area.
The Professional Standards Unit (PSU) was established as part of the Department’s Head Office review in 2007. Through education, support and investigations, the PSU will actively promote the highest standards of integrity and professional behaviour in the Department and will greatly enhance the Department’s ability to deal with illegal or corrupt conduct.
The Unit is part of the Office of the Chief Executive and is staffed by experienced investigators who also have extensive experience as trainers and educators and a combined 105 years’ experience in crime investigation. The unit will provide the CE with capacity to undertake investigations on an immediate basis, particularly where multiple allegations are raised and the issues are complex and wide ranging.
The Unit will undertake proactive and reactive investigations into allegations of staff misconduct either prior to, or together with, any police investigation.
The Professional Standards Unit’s mandate covers the whole Department and will enable the Chief Executive to immediately seek to substantiate or refute allegations of corruption or other forms of serious misconduct.
The Department has been building an intelligence capability, known as Crime Prevention Information Capability, or CPIC for short, which will focus on criminal activities been undertaken by prisoners.
CPIC is based on best-practice models of intelligence seen in justice sector agencies such as the Police and Customs, as well as overseas corrections jurisdictions – including Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.
CPIC will ensure intelligence information is fully researched, developed and analysed in accordance with the internationally accepted “intelligence cycle”.
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