Mt Eden Corrections Facility has made excellent progress in addressing 49 of the 56 issues raised in the independent Corrections Inspectorate’s report into the prison from January 2018.
The issues ranged from the minor to the more serious and prison management has worked hard to address them including:
- A concerted effort to upgrade conditions with painting, both internally and externally, repositioning and addition of power sockets, improving distribution of clothing, bedding, and receipt of property.
- Proactively addressing any forms of threat, abuse or violence and encouraging prisoners to use the confidential Crimestoppers line or engage with staff if they feel unsafe.
- Ensuring prisoners have a range of constructive activities.
The remaining seven issues are currently being progressed against an action plan created by the prison.
Chief Custodial Officer Neil Beales says it is particularly pleasing to note that offenders are treated with respect by staff when they enter the prison.
“As the country’s only remand prison, entering Mt Eden can be a particularly difficult time for offenders, who may be coming to prison for the first time. It is good to see that staff at the prison’s receiving office are therefore sensitive to the needs of the prisoners and ensure that first contact with prison officials is done respectfully.”
“Our staff do a challenging job with some very difficult people, so to hear feedback like this is extremely pleasing.”
The Inspectorate did highlight that while most of the prison was clean and well maintained, there were some areas that needed attention, including maintaining adequate staffing levels.
“Due to the transitory nature of the remand prison, maintaining standards of cleanliness can be difficult as some prisoners have little respect for their surroundings. Work has been done to bring those areas that needed attention up to an acceptable level but this is an ongoing challenge for staff.”
“In the last eighteen months since this report was done, Corrections has carried out an extensive recruitment drive to ensure optimum staffing levels at a time when the prison population was increasing. Since March last year the prison population has dropped by approximately 8%, easing concerns for the safety and security of staff and prisoners alike,” said Mr Beales.
At the time of the inspection (January 2018), New Zealand was experiencing one of the warmest summers on record. As a result prisoners complained of uncomfortable temperatures in their units at that time. Temperatures at MECF ranged between 27-29 degrees daily and prisoners do not have access to traditional open air yards due to the design of the prison.
“The prison has been working on a project to develop and implement a heating, ventilation and air conditioning solution for the areas of the prison worst affected. This is due to come into operation prior to next summer and will increase the airflow into cells and provide cool air during warm weather.”
Privacy for prisoners was also an issue raised by the Inspectorate and the prison is moving to address this issue by purchasing privacy screens that will be in place by August this year.
The health needs of prisoners were generally well served and there was good collaboration between staff but the report did highlight need for further training among staff in the Intervention and Support Unit to recognise mental health needs.
“The treatment of mental health needs is an issue that is challenging all aspects of New Zealand society and this was addressed in the government’s latest budget. Last week the government announced an investment in Corrections of almost $130 million for prisoner mental health and addiction services.
Mr Beales says 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 that there has been such a concerted effort to make the environment at the prison better.”
“We are prepared to listen and if standards are not being maintained we move quickly to improve them wherever possible,” said Mr Beales.
Read the media release from Office of the Inspectorate along with the full inspection report for Mt Eden Corrections Facility on their website.