• Click image to open the strategy document.The Department of Corrections has today launched Wāhine - E rere ana ki te pae hou, the organisation’s new women’s strategy for 2021-2025. The strategy was developed in consultation with a range of predominantly wāhine Māori, including women with lived experience of the justice system, whānau, service providers, staff and a range of agencies and iwi organisations.

    Wāhine - E rere ana ki te pae hou means ‘women rising above a new horizon’. This strategy seeks to support restoration and reclamation for women and their whānau through oranga, or wellbeing. In following this path, we will work together towards breaking the cycle of offending, leading to better outcomes for women and their family while ensuring our communities are safe.

    “The release of three reports by the independent Corrections Inspectorate today, all relating to the management of women in prison in our recent history demonstrates the absolute need for a refreshed strategy to guide our work,” says Rachel Leota, Corrections’ National Commissioner.

    “While we have made significant progress since our first strategy in 2017 by recognising the unique circumstances and needs of women who offend, it’s clear that we must do more, and we must do better. It was also important to align with Hōkai Rangi, our organisational strategy that has seen a big shift in the way we operate since being launched in 2019.

    “We know that our prisons have been largely developed to accommodate men, with operating policies that don’t differ between men and women despite their significant differences, and some of our programmes for the most part are not gender-responsive or informed by the trauma that many women have experienced throughout their lives.”

  • Related links

    Thematic Report – The lived Experience of Women in Prison

    Special Investigation into the Management of Three Wāhine at ARWCF

    Christchurch Women’s Prison inspection October 2020

Women make up just six percent of the total prison population in New Zealand and 19% of the total number of people serving community sentences or orders. However, many women have been victims themselves, experiencing lives of poverty, trauma, neglect and physical and sexual violence.

Over 50% of women have suffered from post-traumatic stress at some point (men in prison: 22%), 75% have been diagnosed with a mental health issue in the last 12 months (men: 61%) and 68% have been the victim of family violence.

Women also play a critical role in their family structure, predominantly being the primary caregivers of children and their households.

“With this new strategy, we will focus on humanising and healing approaches, gender and cultural responsiveness support, and provide them with the opportunity to change not only their own lives, but the lives and the futures of their tamariki,” says Ms Leota.

Wāhine - E rere ana ki te pae hou takes the focus areas from the previous strategy, and resets these for the next four years:

TautokoDo what’s right for me. Corrections will uphold the mana and dignity of women by working in a strengths-based way, connecting prison and community-based staff to ensure a seamless approach throughout a woman’s journey through her sentence.

Holistic ApproachesSee the whole of me. Every woman that comes into our system is unique and has their own life experience. By working with the woman at an individual level and seeing beyond their sentence and into who they are for their whānau, their friends and their community, Corrections can give them the best possible chance of changing their lives.

Reclaim and Restore Acknowledge my journey. Many of the women that come into prison have had deeply traumatic experiences, but they all have the strong desire to heal so they can return to their whānau and communities as a better version of themselves. Corrections needs to support them in their journey.

Whānau and Whanaungatanga Take time to get to know me. We recognise the importance of whānau for women. Te Ao Māori recognises that women carry whakapapa with them and pass their knowledge on to their tamariki and many continue this role from within prison. Corrections needs to ensure women are able to keep connected to their whānau.

An action plan within the strategy sets out a number of actions to be achieved over the next five years, including: easier access to the complaints process, and the establishment of wāhine panels to ensure women’s voices are better heard; increased support and accommodation for women in the community, particularly for women caring for children;  providing culturally responsive trauma training for staff; different procurement approaches to enable greater partnerships with Māori and an equity focus in delivering services and develop a pregnancy healthcare pathway in conjunction with the College of Midwives and Nga Maia.

“What we can see through each of the focus areas is a need to ensure that we take a different approach with each woman, giving them the tools and support to keep connected with their loved ones in the community, while providing them with effective rehabilitation to address the cause of their offending and greater reintegration support so they can transition back safely into the community,” says Ms Leota.

While the new strategy was being developed, work had already commenced on the Women’s Prison Network Improvement Programme. This was to respond, in part, to the concerns raised regarding the management of three women at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility (ARWCF) over the period of 12 months between February 2019 and February 2020.

A number of changes across the women’s network have already been implemented, including:

  • The appointment of a mental health Clinical Nurse Specialist at both Arohata Prison and Christchurch Women’s Prison to focus specifically on supporting women with moderate to severe mental health needs. A similar, but more comprehensive, service is being delivered at ARWCF by the Intervention and Support Practice Team
  • Establishment of He Kete, a community residential AOD treatment programme in Christchurch, through funding from the Proceeds of Crime Fund. He Kete is for women who are in the justice system, meaning that women on bail and community-based sentences can also be referred to the programme
  • Upgrades to the visitors’ centre at Arohata Prison and refurbishments to the bonding room and playground at ARWCF
  • Wāhine panels are being set up at each of the three sites, giving women another way to provide feedback on their experience in prison and contribute to change
  • A review of our current Maximum-Security operating model, including personalised management plans
  • Co designing a new Kaupapa Māori Health Services – this is set to transform all of Corrections health services to provide an end to end Kaupapa Māori approach to how health services will be developed, designed and delivered across the corrections network including the women’s prisons
  • Approving a $12 million work programme at ARWCF to establish additional recreation yards, to enable more recreation time in open spaces
  • Improved complaints processes at each site, including increased prioritisation, monitoring and responding to the complaints in a timely manner.

Earlier this year, Corrections acknowledged that the management of three women at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility not only fell well below the standards expected of ourselves, but the standards expected by the Minister, communities, and by the country as a whole.

“We cannot change what has happened in the past, but we have acknowledged our shortfalls, apologised to the three women and offered them the opportunity to work with us so what happened to them does not happen to another woman in the future,” says Ms Leota.

“This strategy is our promise and plan to do better.”

Read a copy of Wāhine: E rere ana ki te pae hou Women's Strategy 2021 - 2025 PDF, 1.3 MB.

Release of reports by the independent Corrections Inspectorate

The release of Wāhine - E rere ana ki te pae hou comes on the same day as the release of three reports by the independent Corrections Inspectorate specifically relating to the management of women in prison.

The first is the Thematic Review into the lived experience of women in prison, which focusses on the opportunity to reimagine and redesign the way in which women are managed in prison and prepared for transition back into the community.

The second is the Special Investigation into the management of three women at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility from February 2019 to February 2020 where Corrections fell short of our own expectations when it came to the treatment of these women.

The third is the inspection of Christchurch Women’s Prison, which took place in October 2020. This inspection looks specifically at Christchurch Women’s Prison, and completes the three inspections of the women’s prisons that contribute to the Thematic Review.

“These reports tell us that we are still on our journey in this space, and we still have a lot to do in order to create environments where women feel empowered to change their lives and future outlook,” says Ms Leota.

“With the introduction of new initiatives, such as Te Mana Wāhine Pathway at Christchurch Women’s Prison and building stronger partnerships with iwi, hapū and kaupapa Māori service providers, we can ensure the women we manage have the best possible chance to leave a life of trauma and crime behind them, and look towards a better future for them, their whānau, and their communities.

“What is important to note is that this is not about our frontline staff not doing well enough. As noted in each of the reports, our staff have continued to try and do the best for those we manage. However, we have not set up the system well enough to give staff the tools and resources to manage the incredibly complex environment they work in, with individuals whose behaviour at times can be increasingly difficult to manage.

“Many of our staff have done a fantastic job to manage these individuals in the current environment, but the introduction of the new Women’s Strategy gives them the foundations and the mandate to do things differently and in line with the unique needs of each individual.”

Thematic Report – The lived Experience of Women in Prison

In 2020, the independent Corrections Inspectorate began a thematic review into the lived experience of women in prison, which stemmed from the opportunity to reimagine and redesign the way we manage women and assist them in their transition back into the community.

Beginning with an inspection in each of our women’s prisons in 2020, and culminating in the thematic report released today, a single overarching recommendation was made:

The Department [of Corrections] must review the strategic and operational leadership, resourcing, operating model and service delivery across the women’s prison network (including health services) to enable, and deliver, better outcomes for women, which are critically gender specific, culturally responsive and trauma informed.

“We welcome the opportunity provided by the thematic review – to support those women who have been or are in custody by identifying interventions and services that meet their unique risks and needs, managing women in ways that are trauma-informed and empowering, and strengthening the capability and capacity of the women’s prisons and the development of staff who manage these women,” says Corrections National Commissioner, Rachel Leota.

“The Inspectorate has recognised the gains Corrections has made under our current women’s strategy and the positive impact this has had for women in prison, including access to social workers, trauma counsellors and a wider range of rehabilitative, education and training opportunities.

The thematic review also outlines a number of areas for consideration, covering a women’s journey through the system from when they first enter prison to when they return to their whānau and their community. These areas cover Entering Prison – Reception, Induction and Escorts; Safe and Humanising Treatment; Environment; Health and Wellbeing; Rehabilitation and Reintegration; Relationships and Family and Whānau; and Staffing.

“Work is already underway to transform the way Corrections manages and cares for women following a letter of expectation from the Minister of Corrections to the Department in March 2021,” says Ms Leota.

To support the three women’s prisons to address the expectations set out by the Minister, the Chief Executive established the Women’s Prison Network Improvement Programme. As well as supporting the delivery of the expectations of the Minister, the programme is responsible for implementing other positive initiatives that will contribute to women’s wellbeing and help reduce re-offending.

A number of changes have already been implemented, including:

  • Addressing immediate staffing pressures at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility including the appointment of a permanent Prison Director
  • At both Arohata Prison and Christchurch Women’s Prison, we have appointed a mental health Clinical Nurse Specialist to focus specifically on supporting women with moderate to severe mental health needs. A similar, but more comprehensive service is being delivered at ARWCF by the Intervention and Support Practice Team.
  • Establishment of He Kete, a community residential AOD treatment programme in Christchurch, through funding from the Proceeds of Crime Fund. He Kete is for women who are in the justice system, meaning that women on bail and community-based sentences can also be referred to the programme
  • Upgrades to the visitors’ centre at Arohata Prison and refurbishments to the bonding room and playground at ARWCF
  • Wāhine panels are being set up at each of the three sites – with Christchurch Women’s Prison already in place – giving women another way to voice their opinions and suggest changes
  • A review of self-care unit occupancy rates to ensure as many women benefit from living in these as possible, as evidence shows self-care is a positive part of transitioning to the community
  • A review of our current Maximum-Security operating model, including personalised management plans
  • Co designing a new Kaupapa Māori Health Services – this is set to transform all of Corrections health services to provide an end to end Kaupapa Māori approach to how health services will be developed, designed and delivered across the corrections network including the women’s prisons.

Supporting pregnant women and women who are new mothers in prison is also a key focus for Corrections, noting that this time is a significant life milestone for both mother and baby. Environments like the bonding unit provides a quiet and intimate space for a mother to bond with her new baby where the baby is living with whānau at home. The space also provides the ability for women to express milk and have this kept frozen ahead of a visit by their baby, ensuring that both mother and baby can bond and build a relationship until the mother can return home.

Earlier this year, we also changed the policy and practice around mechanical restraints for women in prison. This includes a ban on the use of restraints for women who are 30+ weeks pregnant and for women who have just given birth.

“Our previous policy was no longer appropriate or fit for purpose and added stress that could be caused for expectant mothers,” says Ms Leota. “Ensuring that both the mother and their baby have the best start possible is extremely important, and this long overdue policy and practice change supports this.”

“Corrections officers will instead use a risk assessment approach to ensure the safety and security of the woman, her baby, staff, and the public. These risk assessments will inform how escorts and hospital visits will be managed in the future, and focus on reducing stress and removing the need for additional controls which may impact the start of the baby’s life.”

A trial of a full body scanner at Rimutaka Prison earlier this year has also proved valuable for the reception process for people in prison.

“Strip searching can be a very degrading and traumatising experience, especially at times when women are menstruating or are pregnant. Body scanner technology can reduce the need for strip searches, instead providing a quick and harmless option – including for pregnant women – to detect contraband and other items that are either concealed on a person, or internally.

“Initial feedback from those at Rimutaka who took part in the trial was that the use of the body scanner was less embarrassing for prisoners and provided a more dignified and humanising alternative to strip searching for people on arrival to prison. We are now looking at how this technology can be trialled in the Women’s network.”

These are just some of the changes underway across the prison network to ensure we better cater towards the unique needs of the women Corrections manage.

A copy of the Thematic Report can be found on the Office of the Inspectorate’s websit. You can also read Corrections’ full response on our website.

Special Investigation into the management of three women at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility

Earlier this year, Corrections acknowledged that the management of three women at ARWCF for a period of one year between February 2019 and February 2020 fell well below the standards we expect of ourselves, says Corrections National Commissioner, Rachel Leota.

This followed a District Court decision earlier this year that discussed the treatment of these women and where Corrections did not manage these women with dignity.

“Following preliminary findings by the Inspectorate, Corrections met with the women in March,” says Ms Leota. “This was the first opportunity for us to acknowledge and apologise for the systemic failures that led to them being managed in an increasingly restrictive way.”

“I would again like to apologise to the women for the way they were treated. Despite the challenges of managing those who display increasing difficult behaviour, we must always uphold the high standards we expect of ourselves. It is extremely regrettable that we didn’t for these three women.

“At the time, it was agreed that we would continue to discuss with them the options available to make right what was done to them. This will continue to be guided by what the women consider important, and our approach will be to ensure this will be mana-enhancing for all three women.

“While we can’t change how we managed the women, nor the hurt and distress they have suffered as a result of their management, we have made a number of changes at the prison to prevent this from ever happening again. It’s important that we continue to work towards putting this right for them.”

Following the preliminary report by the Inspectorate earlier this year, they have now completed their full investigation into the management of these women. The report specifically highlights the management of these women, but also acknowledges the complex and challenging combination of factors involved in their management.

“I acknowledge the significant failures that led to these women being managed in line with an increasingly restrictive regime in response to their escalating and challenging behaviours,” says Ms Leota.

“We accept the findings of the investigation and can provide full assurance that women across our prisons who are currently subject to a maximum security classification or directed segregation are being managed with appropriate and individualised management plans.”

As a result of the preliminary findings, Corrections implemented a women’s prison network improvement programme that focuses on the initial work needed to bring the management of women more in line with the need to recognise their unique experience and needs.

A significant amount of work has already been completed, which includes:

  • A review of our current Maximum-Security operating model, including personalised management plans
  • Women in prison are more likely to have experienced trauma and victimisation than men. Associate Professor of Psychology Dr Julia Ioane has been commissioned to develop a ‘trauma informed approach’ training package for our leaders at ARWCF
  • Approving a $12 million work programme at ARWCF to establish additional recreation yards, for more recreation time in the fresh air
  • Improved complaints processes at each site, including increased prioritisation, monitoring and responding to the complaints in a timely manner.

The new Women’s Strategy also places significant focus on holistic approaches for women in custody, ensuring they continue to be connected with their whānau , are supported at an individual level recognising their unique circumstances, and ensuring they have the space to reclaim and restore their mana and dignity following their sentence.

“This will play a significant part in how we learn from our past actions and improve the system for the future women who come through any of our three women’s prisons,” says Ms Leota.

“We also note the new Principal Assurance Inspector, Women role that has been established within the Office of the Inspectorate. We welcome this new role in order to provide enhanced transparency and ensure overall process and performance improvements.”

A copy of the Special Investigation report can be found on the Office of the Inspectorate’s website. You can also read Corrections’ full response.

Christchurch Women’s Prison inspection October 2020

Prison inspections play an important role in building a culture of continuous improvement for Corrections and many of the opportunities to improve take time to implement successfully, says Corrections National Commissioner, Rachel Leota.

“Overall, the October 2020 inspection at Christchurch Women’s Prison contains much that is positive. It recognises that the site is on a journey and, while it has made gains, there is still work to be done. It is pleasing to note, however, that CWP is recognised as a safe place for women, and their babies, and that staff are attempting to engage in professional and compassionate ways,” says Ms Leota.

“It’s pleasing to see that the Inspectorate noted women had a good range of education, rehabilitation, training, and reintegration opportunities, felt safe from bullying and violence, and staff were compassionate and professional.

“The report also noted positive interactions with health staff, including proactive health screening and vaccinations.  There is also good support in terms of mental health care and counselling, women felt well supported during pregnancy, and the Mother with Babies unit was considered a pleasant and well-maintained environment.”

There have been several improvements since the inspection of Christchurch Women’s Prison including:

  • The appointment of a Pou Tikanga role to support the site to improve its cultural capability support to staff and prisoners
  • Development of the Te Puawaitanga o Ōtautahi service delivery for women who have babies on site or are pregnant
  • Progression of the Te Mana Wāhine Pathway for prison and community-based women, including completion of a co-design process by a group consisting of mana whenua, Māori service providers and women with lived experience
  • Establishment of the Waka Korero reference group consisting of women representatives from each unit
  • Implementation of Making Shifts Work
  • Progression of the modular unit construction, including some of these units coming into use.

“Alongside the release of the Women’s Strategy, and the other reports by the Inspectorate today, there is a sense of optimism for the future,” says Ms Leota.

A copy of the Christchurch Women’s Prison Inspectorate report can be found on their website. You can also read Corrections’ full response.

ENDS

Please note, copies of the new Women’s Strategy and the Inspectorate reports are available online at the following links:

You can find full responses to each of the Inspectorate reports below: