Our staff are equipped to be safe and respond where necessary

Staff safety is our priority. The Staff Safety Plan increases our potential to predict violence in prisons and improve our capacity to respond through additional staff training and interventions.

Custodial staff receive specialist training in tactical communications, de-escalation techniques and negotiation skills to manage non-compliant prisoners. This training provides staff with the skills to remove themselves from dangerous situations, where a Control and Restraint team is not an immediate option or cannot respond in time.

Corrections is also progressing through a three year Staff Safety Plan. This plan directly contributes to making prisons a safer environment, through the creation of tools to support the early identification of risks or heightened tensions in prisons.

Corrections' first priority is to prevent violence

Our staff work closely with prisoners, by actively managing them and motivating them to make more positive decisions. Officers are encouraged to role model acceptable behaviour to prisoners, listen to their concerns, help them solve problems and provide positive direction where necessary. Staff use tools such as the Prison Tension Assessment Tool as an indicator of the level of tension within a prison unit.

Prison Tension Assessment Tool

This tool helps staff to identify and assess daily changes in the overall level of tension, and to ensure staff are made aware of this prior to beginning their shift the following day. The tool works on the basis of a simple form that is completed at the end of the day by unit staff. All forms are combined to generate a wider picture of the situation in each unit. This information is used by unit and site management to take any specific or site-wide actions that are necessary, such as redirection of staff to areas of concern or a reminder at site-wide morning briefings.

The tool sits alongside the Dynamic Appraisal of Situational Awareness (DASA) tool, which is targeted more specifically at individual prisoners within a unit (although, if applied across multiple prisoners, it can indicate risk across the unit), and the Promoting Risk Intervention by Situational Management (PRISM) tool, which looks at systemic issues within the prison environment that may be contributing to violence.

The Prison Tension Assessment Tool is being trialled at Manawatu and Rimutaka Prisons and in parts of Spring Hill Corrections Facility.

Violence reduction panels

Violence reduction panels have been established at four sites (Manawatu Prison, Spring Hill Corrections Facility, Rimutaka Prison and Northland Region Corrections Facility) since September 2015. The panels focus on incidents of violence, assaults, bullying and unexplained injuries, in order to identify and manage perpetrators, protect victims and address bullying ‘hotspots’. The overall aim is to reduce the number of incidents of violence and bullying.

Positive interaction between prisoners and staff results in potential problems being identified and resolved quickly, thereby reducing the number of incidents occurring in prison.

On-body cameras

We have recently finished a successful product test of on-body cameras, and have contracted for 800 units. When the first set of 230 units are received, they will be distributed to eight prison sites.

The aim of the trial was to ascertain if wearing the cameras had positive effects on prisoner behaviour and assisted in de-escalating potentially violent situations. Preliminary results from the trial suggest the cameras reduced the rate of prisoner-related incidents by 15%–20% (compared to the same period last year). The cameras have contributed to a less volatile environment, where prisoners are less likely to use physical attacks. This was corroborated by officers’ feedback and reflected in a reduction in the number of times officers’ needed to resort to physical force to resolve an incident.

Following a review of the deployment at the eight initial sites, the cameras are expected to be rolled out to all other prisons over the next 12 months.

If violence does escalate then staff are required to respond

Staff in prisons carry radios to immediately raise an alarm when an incident occurs, and additional staff will arrive to provide assistance and bring the incident under control. Staff are also issued with equipment to enable them to respond to a violent incident, and to protect themselves and others.

Four arrow-shaped boxes, leading from left to right. First box:

Stab Resistant Body Armour (SRBA)

By June 2016 all custodial staff across the country had been measured for their new, personal issue, stab resistant body armour (SRBA). All eligible staff are expected to have their new SRBA by December 2016. The new SRBA is more lightweight than older versions, and is more suitable for long term use. It is required that staff wear the SRBA while on duty, however there are some situations where this is not possible as it constricts the officer in specific aspects of their work. One example is working at heights in the construction yard. SRBA was previously used only for emergency responses, due to the unsuitability of previous versions for long term use. The new version can be worn as a standard item in a greater range of environments.

Pepper spray

Corrections staff use pepper spray in planned Control & Restraint (C&R) incidents. It is strictly controlled under a carefully managed process, and is not carried by individual corrections officers.

Pepper spray can be the least harmful way of responding when force is required, both for staff and prisoners. When sprayed directly onto a prisoner or into their cell, the effect is immediate. This temporarily incapacitates the prisoner, making it easier and safer to restrain and relocate them.

Emergency Response Operational Project

The Emergency Response Operational Project is exploring the future of both Control and Restraint and Advanced Control and Restraint. These work streams will ensure that operating practices and tactics are current, promote staff and prisoners safety and meet the wider needs of the organisation.

Site Emergency Response Teams

Corrections has commenced a programme to establish Site Emergency Response Teams (SERT) across the prison network.

SERT provide additional resources and tactical options when responding to incidents in prisons. They are designed to provide an intermediary response between standard Control and Restraint and the Advanced Control and Restraint teams who are assembled to respond to serious disorder events. The teams also have a monitoring and improvement focus to support operations to enhance security and safety for their sites.

SERT staff go through a thorough selection process. They must pass a fitness assessment, formal interview and most critically undertake an operational simulation where they must demonstrate their ability to remain calm, professional and make appropriate decisions under pressure.

As at 30 June 2016 SERT have been established at Spring Hill Corrections Facility, Auckland Prison, Christchurch Men’s Prison and Otago Corrections Facility with plans for introduction of SERT at Rimutaka Prison, Hawkes Bay Regional Prison and Northland Region Corrections Facility underway.

Instigators of violence are held to account

Prisoners are held to account for their involvement in violent incidents. This can include reassessments of security classifications, as well as transfers to other prison units. Victims of violence may also be moved to different units if this is deemed necessary to protect them from further violence, or if they apply to be moved into a segregation unit. When appropriate, prisoner assaults are treated as criminal matters and details may be sent to Police for investigation and future legal action.

We are also focussed on ensuring that staff who work in the community and our vendors are safe

This year, through the Staff Safety Plan, we have encouraged staff and managers to talk more about safety, and to implement additional safety-related projects to focus on the prevention of violence.

  • We have developed practice guidance for frontline staff to deal safely with gangs and minimise their influence.
  • We are supporting sites to conduct effective emergency drills and exercises.
  • We are investigating ways to further protect the personal information of our staff to prevent harassment and intimidation.
  • We are continuing research into new ways to improve staff safety, and to evaluate the effectiveness of personal protective equipment and other safety options.
  • We are using intelligence to identify and mitigate the greatest threats to our staff.
  • We are reviewing home visits to ensure staff have the training and information they need to stay safe during home visits.
  • We are developing a high-risk address register and improving the way we share information with partners.
  • We are investigating the benefits of on-body camera technology for home visits and community work supervisors.

View the Staff Safety Plan poster (JPG)

View the Staff Safety Plan Poster (PDF)

View the previous section | Continue to the next section

Return to the main Annual Report 2015/16 page