The Department of Corrections says a new policy limiting prisoner access to razor blades will improve staff safety and reduce self harm in prison.
Assistant General Manager Dr Brendan Anstiss says the new razor blade policy means no high security, remand or youth prisoners may own or keep razors in their cells from Monday 11 May.
“This policy will improve staff safety. In the past prisoners have used razors to fashion weapons and these have occasionally been used against staff. This new policy will minimise this risk,” says Dr Anstiss.
“Prisoners who wish to use a razor for shaving will be supplied with a disposable safety razor by custodial staff who will monitor the issuing and ensure the razor is returned and disposed of within one hour.”
The new razor blade policy will also greatly limit the ability of prisoners to attempt suicide using razor blades.
“Suicide in prison is a major issue for correctional jurisdictions worldwide. Mental health disorders and illnesses are up to five time more prevalent among prisoners than in the general population and it is very difficult to stop someone who is determined to harm themselves,” says Dr Anstiss.
“The suicide rate in New Zealand prisons has fallen nearly 60 percent in recent years, but we are determined to further reduce the rate of suicide and ensure prisoners complete their sentences.
“This new policy is one of a number of steps the Department has taken to reduce the risk of suicide in prison. In recent years we have also introduced 14 At Risk units and improved staff training so they can better recognise the warning signs of a suicide attempt.”
Dr Anstiss says the Department will continue to work hard to develop policies, systems, training and assessment tools to minimise the possibility of future unnatural deaths in custody.
“This includes delivering training to all our prison nurses on primary mental health treatment and reviewing processes in At Risk Units.”
Note to reporter:
Prisoners are required and entitled to maintain cleanliness under clauses 69 and 70 of the Corrections Regulations 2005. Please see the link below for more information:
All prisoners that have been assessed as being at risk of self harm or in an At Risk Unit are already restricted in the use of razors and are monitored by staff while shaving.
Prisoners may own and use electric razors if they wish.
For further information contact the Communications Services Desk:
Phone: (04) 460 3365
After hours: (021) 761 828
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