The independent Corrections Inspectorate’s report into Hawkes Bay Regional Prison has seen significant progress across a wide range of areas, including security, rehabilitation and staff engagement with prisoners since an initial inspection took place in July 2017.
The follow up inspection in July 2018 found that prison management and staff had made a concerted effort to improve the prison environment by clearing graffiti, reducing violence and intimidation, increasing perimeter security and ensuring prisoners are better engaged in constructive activities.
Chief Custodial Officer Neil Beales says that Corrections takes the observations and information in the Inspectorate’s reports seriously.
“It’s demanding to work inside a prison due to the complex nature of the job and a report such as this helps refocus our efforts and maintain standards across the system. It is a sign of the dedication of the staff over the last twelve months that there has been such a concerted effort to make the environment at the prison better.”
Mr Beales says the opening of a new high medium security unit in March, operating on kaupapa Māori values, will also contribute to an improved prison environment.
“The prison has a large number of Māori prisoners, with almost 70 percent of prisoners identifying as Māori. The new 59 bed unit will go a long way to meeting the needs of a large number of the prisoners.”
Gangs have been an ongoing challenge and Mr Beales says Hawkes Bay Prison has one of the largest number of prisoners affiliating to a gang.
“A large gang population at the prison makes things challenging for staff but everyday they go to work to ensure accepted international standards of safety, human dignity, rehabilitation and reintegration needs within prisons are met,” says Mr Beales.
“We have been working hard to weaken the impact of gangs in the prison environment. To help achieve this we provide support to prisoners who want to end their involvement with a gang. All reasonable steps are taken to discourage prisoners from gang membership and make sure that there are safe pathways out, if prisoners want to leave.”
Hawkes Bay Regional Prison has also benefitted from a national recruitment drive undertaken by Corrections in the last two years.
“The increase in staff levels in the last twelve months has helped to mitigate security concerns at the prison while also allowing staff to better engage with and manage prisoners. As a result we have seen a reduction in the levels of violence and intimidation in the prison.”
“We are prepared to listen and monitor our work and if standards are not being maintained we move quickly to improve our work, wherever possible and this is identified in this inspection report,” said Mr Beales.