To be attributed to Chief Custodial Officer Neil Beales:
The United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture establishes an international inspection system for places of detention.
The Ombudsman has responsibility under the Crimes of Torture Act (COTA) for examining and monitoring the general conditions and treatment of detainees in New Zealand prisons.
Between Aug 2011-Nov 2012 Inspectors from the Ombudsman’s Office made visits to Rolleston Prison, Auckland Prison Directed Segregation Facilities, Rimutaka Prison Upper Prison, Tongariro Prison, Auckland Prison, Waikeria Prison, Arohata Prison, and Hawkes Bay Regional Prison. Rolleston was also visited in April 2016.
Reports from these visits have been requested under the Official Information Act. In the interests of transparency, Corrections has today released the reports relating to inspections of the prisons, subject to some redactions for security reasons.
At no point did the Ombudsman find any evidence of torture in the inspections.
The COTA inspectors made many positive findings about each prison, such as prisoners being complimentary about staff, prisoners feeling there was a staff member they could turn to for help if they had a problem, and cells being clean, tidy and well maintained.
Corrections takes its duty of care towards prisoners seriously and is committed to managing all prisoners in a safe, secure, humane and effective manner.
Prisoners have the right to be treated with humanity, dignity and respect while in prison, therefore there are a number of human rights standards in place to ensure safe detention.
If a prisoner believes their human rights have been breached, they have a number of complaints processes they can follow (such as internal complaints processes, the Inspector of Corrections, and the Ombudsman).
Many of the recommendations made by the Ombudsman have already been carried out and were identified as complete by the Inspectors at the follow-up inspections. Corrections is continuing work to progress recommendations that require action. Some recommendations were not accepted due to practicality or security restrictions.
Corrections takes the matter of prisoner dignity and privacy seriously. All possible steps are taken to ensure that privacy is provided where it is possible and appropriate. Our paramount concern is to manage prisoners in a safe environment. Cameras are used in accordance with the Corrections Act 2004 and Corrections Regulations 2005, which state that sentences must be administered in a “safe, secure, humane, and effective manner.”
Concerns about privacy in safe cells will often be secondary to the risk posed to a prisoner’s life. The ability of staff to remotely observe prisoners in safe cells has meant that on numerous occasions they have prevented a potential prisoner suicide or self harming incident.
For secure cells, camera footage is an important tool in order to provide evidence of a prisoner’s actions and to protect staff from unfounded allegations.
Installation of privacy screens around the toilet area in the secure unit cells has not been accepted as a recommendation to date because Corrections deems this would not be consistent with safe custodial management.
However, Corrections is undertaking a review of the use of CCTV in prisoner’s cells in the ARU, and is inviting the Ombudsman to examine options for greater privacy. It is anticipated that this review may enable a greater provision of privacy without compromising security and safety.
(Note: comments about cameras related only to safe or at-risk cells, and secure cells, not mainstream cells. At-risk or safe cells are used for prisoners at risk of self-harm or suicide.)
Prisoners feeling unsafe
While Corrections manages some of the country’s most challenging and violent individuals, intimidation and threatening behaviour in prisons is not tolerated and any prisoner who exhibits such behaviour will be held to account.
Corrections has developed a Prison Tension Assessment Tool (PTAT) to help corrections officers assess the overall level of tension in units. This will enable actions to be taken where needed to reduce concerns.
Prisoners are strongly encouraged to raise concerns over their safety and can be provided segregation from mainstream prisoners where they have safety concerns.
Arohata Prison - 2012
The outdoor shower facilities are no longer used and new shower facilities were built in 2013.
The Department has demolished three of the units identified as requiring refurbishment. These units were at the end of their usable life.
The Department prioritises requests for maintenance and upgrades of our facilities. Projects addressing capacity and critical infrastructure across the whole prison estate have taken priority over some regularly planned maintenance activities, such as work to the Arohata drug treatment unit (DTU). Over the past five years projects such as enhancements at Northern Region Corrections Facility, Spring Hill Corrections Facility and Otago Corrections Facility and upgrade of units at Whanganui Prison and Invercargill Prison have taken priority. Painting of the DTU at Arohata is underway and planned to be completed in the first quarter of the 2017/18 financial year.
Hawkes Bay Regional Prison - 2012
Upgrade and maintenance of facilities
A new receiving office was completed in 2014 and includes improved security measures, a search booth, ten cells, an interview room, a staff base and storage for prisoner property. This new facility enables staff to manage prisoners more effectively when they enter and leave the prison.
The Separates area was repainted in 2012 as part of the Department’s scheduled maintenance programme.
The Office of the Ombudsman has recently completed an inspection of Hawkes Bay Regional Prison and the report will soon be published.
Auckland Prison – 2011 & 2012
Material conditions in D Block
The shower facilities in this block have had regular maintenance, including daily cleaning and painting as required, however, this facility is coming to the end of its usable life. The Department is developing a new maximum security block. In addition, rubbish is removed from around D block a minimum of once a week to ensure the facility remains safe and sanitary.
The Separates unit has been demolished rather than refurbished as part of the wider development of this facility. Segregated prisoners are now housed in the Management Unit.
Special Needs Unit
The Department has intensified its focus on the management of the mental health needs of prisoners and continues to work with other agencies to ensure a high standard of care is provided. Weekly multi-disciplinary meetings are established and well embedded in the Special Needs Unit. The focus of these meetings is on prisoner and information sharing to ensure all relevant matters are considered in determining the approach for the management of a prisoner with mental health needs. Staff in this unit are supported by Psychology Services who provide fortnightly training. Staff feedback has been positive and this additional support is valued by case managers and custodial staff managing these prisoners. Staff also engage in fortnightly debriefing sessions which provide an opportunity to raise any specific concerns staff may have as a result of their dealings with prisoners with mental health issues.
The Department has embarked on a $300 million redevelopment of the maximum security facility at Auckland Prison. The new maximum security facilities have been designed with safety and security as the highest priority. In addition, more space will be made available to provide the education, training or therapeutic programmes needed to support rehabilitation and reintegration. This includes an enhanced ability to meet the needs of prisoners with severe mental illness.
Tongariro Prison - 2012
Tongariro Prison is now a working prison and aims to deliver 650,000 hours of meaningful activity to prisoners in 2017. The prison operates eight industries: farming, carpentry, catering, grounds maintenance, painting, horticulture, forestry and engineering. Apiculture and recycling will also be introduced in 2017. The prison will also expand its relationship with the Department of Conservation and investigate new opportunities to work together on key conservation projects. There are eight treatment programmes offered to support rehabilitation and reintegration into the community on release. There are also literacy, numeracy and other learning programmes to suit the varying needs and capabilities of offenders.
Rimutaka Upper Prison – 2012
A follow-up visit was completed by the Office of the Ombudsman under the Crimes of Torture Act 1989 in September 2013. At that time all recommendations had been achieved except in relation to the working prison, the unlock regime and the gymnasium.
As a result of the current prison population, the Upper Prison at Rimutaka is operating as a facility for female prisoners. There is no contact between male and female prisoners at Rimutaka Prison. The Upper Prison is operating an 8am to 5pm regime of unlock and there have been very few lockdowns between these core routine hours.
The gymnasium in the Upper Prison is now being used regularly. Enhancements continue to be made and additional equipment has been ordered to ensure prisoners can engage in a wide range of activities.
Rolleston Prison – 2012 & 2016
All separates cell block areas were repainted in September 2016 and ongoing maintenance will be carried out as needed.
All staff are now up to date with core training and the Prison Director is monitoring this to ensure it is maintained.
The Prison Director investigated the practicality of installing alarms in the shower area, however, this was not deemed to be a practical solution and risk of injury to prisoners is instead mitigated through careful staff monitoring.
New information kiosks have been installed in all units at Rolleston prison.