The independent Corrections’ Inspectorate has released its report on Waikeria Prison for the unannounced follow-up inspection in August 2019. The report found good progress has been made against the findings from the initial inspection in 2017, and that the new facility currently being built on the site will bring further improvement.

Corrections’ Chief Custodial Officer Neil Beales says the report provides valuable independent feedback for Waikeria Prison and the Department.

“It is encouraging that the report found the prison had overall made good progress and specifically highlighted that areas that prison management had worked hard to progress.”

“What the report did identify was that the challenges faced by the prison predominantly relate to the 100 year old high security facility. However most of these issues will cease to exist once the new 500-bed facility is operational and the planned closure of the existing high security facilities can proceed. said Mr Beales.

“Staff currently need to balance day to day operations and focus on continuous improvement all while supporting the building project and the development of the operational model for the 100-bed Mental Health and Addiction Service that will be part of the new facility.”

“The prison management team is also conscious that new buildings cannot resolve all challenges and the culture of the site is of critical importance. They have taken deliberate steps to make the culture of Waikeria Prison highly visible to staff, prisoners and visitors, through initiatives such as painting the Department’s values onto walls and providing training on incorporating the use of the values to all staff at the site.”

The inspection report comments on the focus on values, and the inspectors observed an improvement in staff engagement with prisoners.

“It was heartening to note the feedback shared in the report by a prisoner that he ‘liked being here because people care”. This simple sentiment reflects significant effort by the leadership team to improve the culture, helping staff cope with the challenging physical environment and in turn, support the men who currently reside there,” said Mr Beales.

Since the inspection in August last year, Corrections has also made considerable progress on some of the other matters raised in the report. These include:

  • A half screen has been placed on the holding cell window in the audio-visual link suite toilet, improving privacy.
  • Similarly, privacy while using toilets in receiving office holding cells has been improved with a change made to the cameras that monitor the area.
  • Health staff and medical officers now have access to necessary applications including GP2GP.
  • In response to concerns about the time between meals in units on 8am to 5pm unlock regimes, additional food rations such as a muffin or snack bar are now provided with the evening meal.
  • A health team process has been implemented to ensure all people over 65 years old receive their annual medical health check. In addition, they have added this as a specific staff portfolio.
  • A staff member on light duties is now placed in the control room of the high security facility to support the monitoring of yard cameras. This will improve supervision and safety for the prisoners using the yards, and staff. by coordinating a swift response if an incident occurs.

Mr Beales says that Corrections is committed to ensuring that the prison network protects the safety of the prisoners, staff, contractors and visitors, and New Zealand communities.

“We do this by providing offenders with access to health and wellbeing services and every opportunity for change through participation in rehabilitation, education and employment.  Our goal is to give them the best chance of living a life free from crime, and reducing the number of victims impacted by offending,” said Mr Beales.

Read the media release from the Office of the Inspectorate along with the full inspection report on their website.