Please attribute to Jeremy Lightfoot, Chief Executive, Department of Corrections – Ara Poutama Aotearoa
On behalf of Corrections, I would like to express our heartfelt condolences to Malachi Subecz’s whānau and all who loved him. No child should ever have to experience such horrific abuse and I’m so very sorry for the immeasurable pain and grief his whānau will carry with them forever.
It is important that there is no wrong door when it comes to keeping our children safe. We are absolutely committed to working closely with other agencies to further strengthen our information-sharing and reporting processes.
The Inspectorate’s review found no evidence that custodial staff at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility (ARWCF) had any information to alert them that Malachi was not safe with his caregiver. It also found that our staff provided a high level of support to Malachi’s mother during the period Malachi was in hospital and following his tragic death.
The review noted that a Probation Officer had a concern regarding Malachi’s care, which they raised with a local contact at Oranga Tamariki. This was also raised separately with the ARWCF Intelligence team who discussed within their team that the Probation Officer should contact Police; however, this information was not relayed back to the Probation Officer. The Inspectorate found that Oranga Tamariki was the more appropriate agency to raise this concern with.
The Inspectorate made three recommendations directly relevant to Dame Karen Poutasi’s system review, and we have accepted all three.
We are working with Oranga Tamariki to strengthen our information-sharing arrangements in our Relationship Agreement. While we can currently request information from Oranga Tamariki about a person’s dependent children for the pre-sentencing reports we prepare for the court, we will be formally expanding this so we can provide the same information in electronically monitored bail and parole reports. This will assist in ensuring the courts and New Zealand Parole Board have all relevant information available when deciding whether to grant a person with children electronically monitored bail or parole.
We have improved our online system for requesting information and submitting reports of concern to Oranga Tamariki, alongside issuing updated guidance to frontline staff, following a review of our Child Protection Policy in June 2021. While these changes were not yet in practice when Malachi’s mother came into our care, they are now in place. We issued additional reminders to our staff about our Child Protection Policy in December 2021 and October 2022, and will continue to remind staff of our obligations under the Policy.
We have assessed our existing processes for when people arrive in custody and have updated the questions we ask as part of a person’s Immediate Needs Assessment. This will provide us with more detailed information about a prisoner’s dependents and the childcare arrangements they have in place while they are in prison so we can identify any additional support they made need from us, other agencies and community providers. This will be piloted at ARWCF, Mt Eden Corrections Facility and Auckland Prison from early next year.
A review into our current practice when people with dependent children enter prison is also due to start this month. This will identify what further improvements can be made when a person with dependents first enters prison, alongside reviewing how we and other agencies connect with Oranga Tamariki when a person first enters custody.
The Inspectorate’s review also looked at the management of Malachi’s mother while in our care at ARWCF, and made five recommendations on how we could strengthen our practices and processes at the prison. We have accepted these recommendations and a number of changes have since taken place at ARWCF.
The leadership team at ARWCF has been working with staff to ensure accurate record-keeping, and that there is clear, well-documented decision-making that responds to the needs of women both while in prison and during hospital escorts whilst maintaining the safety of our staff, the women in our care and our communities.
ARWCF’s Te Waharoa Whakatautangata (First Nights Centre) unit restarted in October. Te Waharoa Whakatautangata is a receiving unit dedicated to identifying the immediate needs of women who come into custody at ARWCF at the earliest opportunity so we can put all the appropriate support in place to meet those needs. Our updated Immediate Needs Assessment will be piloted in this unit.
While the Inspectorate’s review looked specifically at ARWCF, all Prison Directors will be taking part in a forum focused on the recommendations of this report to determine what improvements should be made at their site.
We can never underestimate the impact having a parent in prison has on a child, and as agencies, we must do everything we can to ensure their safety and wellbeing is always at the heart of our decisions and actions.
- Following Malachi’s death, the Chief Executives of Oranga Tamariki and five other agencies, including Corrections, commissioned the system-wide review, led by Dame Karen Poutasi. To assist with this review, our Chief Executive also asked the independent Corrections Inspectorate to review our policies and procedures for when people are received into our custody, including how these were applied when Malachi’s mother came into prison.
- The review made 12 recommendations, and we have accepted all 12 recommendations. A summary of their report is available on the Office of the Inspectorate website.
- These recommendations include three that are directly relevant to Dame Karen Poutasi’s review, alongside five recommendations on how we could strengthen our practices and processes at ARWCF.
- The Inspectorate has withheld from publication four recommendations that were directly relevant to Malachi’s mother in order to protect her privacy. Due to our statutory obligations under the Privacy Act 2020 and the Official Information Act 1982, we are not able to provide any further information on these recommendations, but again can confirm all have been accepted.