M.04.01 Prisoner escorts / transfers general

The purpose of this section is to manage prisoners' escorts safely, humanely and securely, while minimising risk to prisoners, staff and general public.

M.04.01.01 Escort / transfers preparation

  1. Prior to the escort / transfer occurring by vehicle, aircraft or ferry, prisoners must have a confirmed destination.
  2. Staff must ensure that prisoners who are being escorted / transferred are separated as per [M.04.01.Res.01 Prisoner's Separation Matrix].
  3. The reception/movements manager must determine, based on a risk assessment, the number of officers required for the escort / transfers and if pepper spray is required. An officer who has achieved National Certificate of Offender Management Level Three NZQA Unit Standard Escort Prisoners must be assigned as the Officer In Charge (OIC) of the escort. Even though the Level Three accreditation is no longer an NZQA Standard, Prison Directors must still ensure sufficient staff are assessed (by a GTE Assessor) and pass the Level Three standard. If an officer has been authorised to carry pepper spray, they must also be current in their Tactical Options certification. The OIC’s name must be written on the Escort Instructions form after printing off the form and before the escort departs.
  4. The recommended minimum number of staff for the following security classifications are:

    Security classification Movement and supervision requirements
    Maximum 3 officers
    High 2 officers
    Remand accused / convicted and unclassified, are managed as high security 2 officers
  5. All prisoners escorted by Corrections Services or a security contractor must have a risk assessment and Prisoner transportation (IOMS) documentation completed prior to the escort occurring.
    Watch PointPreservation of life is the key priority. In emergency situations, and with verbal approval, escorts can leave site for the hospital without escort documentation. This documentation is to be completed as soon as possible and handed over to the escorting staff, ensuring that they fully understand the instructions.
  6. Based on the risk assessment in the [Prisoner transportation (IOMS) form], if a prisoner is deemed to be at risk of self harm, belts and clothing with drawstrings (e.g. jerseys and jackets) must be removed and placed in the prisoner's property for transportation.
  7. At least one hour prior to the departure of an escort custodial staff must ask the prisoner if he/she requires motion / travel sickness medication. Health services must be contacted promptly if medication is requested.
    (See [M.04.01.Res.07 Prisoners requiring motion sickness medication prior to escort].)
  8. If pepper spray and OBC have been authorised for an escort they must be worn at all times throughout the escort, (exception for Court rooms and 22 seat PEV).
  9. Prior to the escort / transfer staff must:
    1. read and familiarise themselves with the standard and special instructions on [Prisoner transportation (IOMS) forms]
    2. consider compliance with the Driving Hours Policy and duty time
    3. if the escort is to occur in a single-cell vehicle, read and familiarise themselves with instructions contained in [M.04.01.Res.04 Instructions for using a single-cell escort vehicle].
  10. All relevant risk information is passed onto those officers and agencies involved in the escort / transfer (IOMS - [C.02.01.F1], (manual version [M.04.01.Form.01 Instructions for Escorts])).
  11. The form [M.04.01.Form.01 Instructions for Escorts] is used for all escorts when IOMS is not available.
  12. On occasion, staff will be required to receive prisoners directly from the Police at Court. The Police use a similar ‘Instructions for Escorts’ form and are required to provide a completed copy for each prisoner being handed over. The form should be attached to the warrant to detain. The Officer in Charge of the escort must:
    1. sign the form acknowledging the information about the prisoner
    2. develop risk mitigations for any risks identified (e.g. if at risk of harm to themselves or others)
    3. advise other escort staff of the new information and strategies for the escort (while at Court and on the return journey)
    4. give the form to the Receiving Office with the warrant/s on return to the prison
    5. advise the Receiving Office of any identified risks for the prisoner/s.
  13. If prisoners are being transporting by way of chartered aircraft staff must comply with [M.04.01.Res.02 Transfer of prisoners via charter aircraft].
  14. The transportation of offenders detained under the [Mental Health Act 1992] and/or the [Intellectual Disability Act 2003] for the duration of their stay in a regional forensic service or care facility, is managed by Department of Corrections, Prison Services.

    For more details see [M.04.01.12 Transporting a prisoner detained under the Mental Health Act and/or Intellectual Disability Act].

M.04.01.02 Managing maximum security classified prisoners pending transfer

  1. Staff must complete [M.04.01.Form.07 Maximum security prisoner interim management plan], within 24 hours, for all prisoners:
    1. with a maximum security classification, and
    2. to be transferred to Auckland Prison, or
    3. Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility.
  2. The components of the management plan reflect the level of risk posed by that prisoner. Not all maximum security prisoner pose the same level of risk. A prisoner recently sentenced on serious violent / sexual assaults charges, with an extensive history of similar offending, is assessed as maximum security classification, due to their high external risk to the community, but has no history of violence in prison, may pose less of a risk than a prisoner who has previously seriously assaulted a staff member.
  3. In developing the management plan staff must consider the prisoner’s history, risk posed, current behaviour and whether the activity (i.e. unlocking for a phone call) needs to be undertaken, and if so, how it will be managed to ensure any risks to staff, the prisoner, or other are minimised. As it is individually based, each management plan will consist of different elements designed to mitigate the risks identified. For example, staff managing a prisoner who is agitated and has a history of assaulting staff, represents a risk to staff or to others. Therefore, staff may determine that to mitigate the risk that the prisoner is not unlocked at that time, or more staff are required to conduct the unlock, or the prisoner is to be handcuffed (if possible through food hatch), or is positioned at the back of the cell, while the door is being unlocked and then placed in mechanical restraints prior to exiting the cell.
  4. To assist staff in determining the appropriate components of the management plan to mitigate the potential risk related to the prisoner pending their transfer to Auckland Prison, or Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility they should use the [M.04.01.Res.05 Management plan component risk guidance].
  5. Maximum security prisoners held in a non maximum security facility are to be transferred to Auckland Prison or Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility, as soon as reasonably practicable (preferably within 48 hours), and only after the prison director has:
    1. confirmed the prisoner’s security classification as maximum, and
    2. approved the journey plan to transfer the prisoner.
  6. A prisoner may be held at their current prison for longer, if:
    1. it is in the interest of justice (e.g. scheduled court hearing), or
    2. it is for external medical treatment, or
    3. the senior advisor to regional commissioner has approved the prisoner’s transfer be delayed:
      1. it is to meet scheduled escort services (i.e. the National Escort Bus and the scheduled interisland prisoner charter), and
      2. where the prison has adequate facilities to manage the prisoner temporarily (i.e. management unit).
  7. The senior advisor to regional commissioner may approve the immediate transfer of a maximum security from a prison that does not have adequate facilities to manage a maximum security prisoner to a facility that does, pending the prisoner’s transfer to Auckland Prison or Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility.

M.04.01.03 Prisoner and vehicle search requirements

  1. Prisoners may be subject to a rub down or scanner searched when leaving a prison. Strip searches may be completed in accordance with [section 98(6) (d) of the Corrections Act 2004].
  2. Prisoners must be strip searched on first being admitted to a prison and on being received in a prison on transfer from another prison, in accordance with [section 98(7) (a)&(c) of the Corrections Act 2004].
  3. Prisoners may be subject to a rub down or scanner search when returning from an escort while they have been under the control of an officer or staff member, in accordance with [section 98(1) (a)&(b) of the Corrections Act 2004].
  4. Escort vehicles must be searched and security checked:
    1. immediately before and immediately after each day's travel
    2. on every occasion at which the prisoner(s) leaves the vehicle
    3. ensure prisoners and their property is loaded into the vehicle.

M.04.01.04 Seat squabs

  1. Escorting staff must ensure prior to escorting a prisoner that the escort vehicles have seat squabs, which are:
    1. provided for the safety and comfort of prisoners during all external escorts.
    2. to be placed in each vehicle compartment regardless of whether a prisoner is restrained or unrestrained.
    3. should not be fixed to the vehicle seating, unless deemed necessary to do so.
    4. staff must ensure that each seat squab is checked for damage or soiling and is cleaned before being securely stored.

M.04.01.05 Advise prisoners of transfer / escort

  1. A prisoner must be informed of an impending transfer, and the destination, at least seven days in advance, and provided with a reasonable opportunity to inform his or her next of kin of the impending transfer, and the destination, before the transfer is made.
  2. The instruction above does not apply if the prisoner to be transferred is expected to create a management difficulty before the transfer is made or as a result of the transfer; or the transfer is being made:
    1. because there are reasonable grounds to believe that the safety of the prisoner or others at the prison within which the prisoner currently resides is at-risk; or
    2. to restore or maintain the security and order of the prison from which the prisoner is being transferred; or
    3. to allow for the effective management of the national prisoner muster.
  3. On arrival at the destination, the prisoner must be allowed one free phone call within New Zealand to advise his or her next of kin of that destination.
  4. A prisoner that has been informed of the transfer before departure and, the prisoner does not have a reasonable opportunity to inform his or her next of kin before the transfer is made, then on arrival at the destination, the prisoner must be allowed one free phone call within New Zealand to advise his or her next of kin of that destination.
  5. If the prisoner has requested a transfer he/she must be informed of the reasons for any delay that may occur.

M.04.01.06 Journey plan


A journey plan is required for:

  • Escorts requiring a rest break.
  • Escorts out of the local metropolotan area requring one or more planned stop(s) on the way to the desination or one or more planned stop(s) on the way back.
  • Escorting high profile prisoners requiring intense security oversight.
  1. Prior to an escort, the PCO / delegated staff in charge of the escort must prepare [M.04.01.Form.03 Prison Escort Journey Plan] in full with:
    1. the plan of the route to be taken.
    2. the stops and rest break sites with expected arrival times.
    3. the muster sheet template of prisoners being escorted.
    4. the essential contact detail of the dispatching site and the stop / rest break site.
    5. any specific instructions for escort staff.
  2. Prior to an escort, the PCO / delegated staff in charge of the escort must also:
    1. brief the escorting staff.
    2. ensure that the escorting staff are supplied with the necessary equipment e.g. cell phones.
    3. check identification cards and driver licences of escorting staff.
    4. ensure that the vehicle has been checked and has seat squabs.
    5. ensure that the required amount of food and water for any intended rest break and the duration of the escort, is supplied.
    6. where pepper spray has been authorised for an escort, the OIC must ensure that a decontamination kit is available in the escort vehicle.
  3. During the escort, escorting staff must:
    1. always adhere to transport conditions from the vehicle folder.
    2. complete welfare checks (see notes below) on the prisoners every 30 minutes after departure and document these on the [M.04.01.Form.03 Prison escort journey plan] to ensure prisoner wellbeing during the journey.
    3. phone the rest break site or intended stop site with the expected time of arrival approximately 30 minutes before arriving, and record this on the [M.04.01.Form.03 Prison escort journey plan].
    4. complete required face to name musters, recorded these on [M.04.01.Form.03 Prison escort journey plan] and report through to control or base of dispatching prison.
    5. follow the contingency plan in the vehicle folder at all times in the event of an emergency.
      Watch PointAT RISK prisoner observations must be completed for current AT RISK prisoners - staff must record at risk observations on the prisoners at risk observation form.
  4. At the completion of the escort / transfer, escorting staff must:
    1. return the signed copy of the [M.04.01.Form.03 Prison escort journey plan] to the PCO / delegated staff in charge of escorts.
    2. ensure that incident reports and/or file notes are completed as required regarding prisoner behaviour during escort.
  5. The completed [M.04.01.Form.03 Prison escort journey plan], including muster sheets and welfare checks must be filed and kept for at least 12 months for audit purposes.


Welfare checks are to be conducted by staff via available facilities (CCTV / Intercom etc) noting that PEV upgrade vehicle replacement with two-way intercom system will occur in stages from 2022.

An Operational Order is not a requirement for escorts / transfer requiring a journey plan. However prisons may create an Operational Order if they feel the risks have not been sufficiently met through the movement process.

M.04.01.07 Escort / transfer administration requirements

  1. As far as practicable a prisoner on escort / transfer does not communicate with any member of the public or is exposed to public view.
  2. Escorting officers must ensure all documents to be taken off-site are held in a covered folder, satchel or box within the possession or control of staff.

M.04.01.08 Hospital Guards / Escorts

  1. Every prisoner who is escorted to Hospital regardless of the nature of their appointment or treatment, must be managed and supervised by a minimum of 2 staff at all times.
  2. Additional staff may be assigned to the escort based on the Security Classification and the risk assessment of the escort.
  3. In the event of multiple prisoners being admitted to the same facility, then the minimum ratio of 2 staff to each prisoner must be maintained at all times.
  4. All supervising staff undertaking a hospital guard / escort are to adhere to the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements of the facility the escort is approved for.
  5. Staff undertaking hospital guard / escorts are to ensure they keep up to date on PPE requirements and use.
  6. Staff escorting a prisoner to hospital or to a health-related appointment are to confirm with the Health Centre of any PPE requirements they are required to wear.

M.04.01.09 Prisoner is medically unfit to attend Court

  1. The medical officer / registered nurse must advise the reception/movements manager when a prisoner who has a scheduled Court appearance is medically unfit to attend.
  2. The reception/movements manager must complete section A of [M.04.01.Form.05 Advise court of medically unfit prisoner], and deliver the form to the medical officer or the health centre manager.
  3. Upon receipt of the form, the medical officer or the health centre manager must:
    1. complete section B;
    2. sign the form and print their full name and occupation beneath their signature;
    3. return the completed form to the reception/movements manager.
  4. The reception/movements manager must deliver the completed form to the prison director, who signs the form confirming that the information contained therein is accurate.
  5. The reception/movements manager must deliver the completed [M.04.01.Form.05 Advise court of medically unfit prisoner] to the receiving office.
  6. Upon receipt of the completed form, receiving office staff must immediately fax the appropriate Court a copy of the completed form.
  7. Receiving office staff must retain the facsimile acknowledgement printout, and attach it to the completed form, (this is the recorded confirmation that the form has been forwarded to the Court).
  8. The completed form, with the attached fax acknowledgement, is to be placed on the prisoner's file.
  9. When a new warrant (or facsimile copy) is received at the receiving office, staff must check that the future remand (appearance) date exceeds the time the medical officer advised the prisoner would be medically unfit, and complete the POM [I.01.03 Validation of Warrant(s) received from Courts].

M.04.01.10 Request to the Court for appearance to be by way of Audio Visual Link

  1. If unit staff have concerns that a prisoner may pose an undue risk to the safety of the community or security (escape) during an upcoming escort to the court, they are to advise the prison director of their concerns and the reasons.
    Note: These procedures only relate to court appearances where the prisoner is the defendant in criminal proceedings. For all other court appearances (e.g. as a witness, or civil and family procedures) the prison director must contact Legal Services in National Office, who will manage the AVL requests with the Court in consultation with the prison director.
  2. The prison director must consider (refer [M.04.01.Res.08 Considerations when making a request to the court for appearance by Audio Visual Link]) the risk and determine whether a request for the prisoner appearance should be by way of Audio Visual Link (AVL).
  3. If the prison director determines a request for the prisoner’s court appearance is necessary to mitigate the risk posed by the prisoner they must complete the [M.04.01.Form.08 Request to presiding Judge / Registrar for appearance by Audio Visual Link], and send an electronic copy to the court for consideration.
  4. Receiving office staff must print out a copy of the acknowledgement, and attach it to the completed form, (this is the recorded confirmation that the form has been forwarded to the Court).
  5. The completed form, with the attached acknowledgement, is to be placed on the prisoner's file.
  6. If the Court approves the request the AVL facilitator must be advised of the AVL hearing.
    Note: The court may adjourn the hearing to a date that exceeds the date on the remand warrant to accommodate the AVL hearing. In this event it is necessary to request the Court provide a new warrant.
  7. If the court declines the request the prisoner’s risk must be mitigated in the escort instructions.

M.04.01.11 Escorting a prisoner who is in a wheelchair

  1. These procedures apply to prisoners who are in a wheelchair and need to be escorted while seated in the wheelchair.
  2. The officer in-charge of escorts must confirm with the prison medical team that the prisoner needs to be transported in a wheelchair.
  3. The officer in-charge of escorts must advise the prison director that a vehicle capable of carrying a paraplegic passenger is needed for the escort.
  4. The officer in-charge of escorts must make arrangements with a local taxi company for a vehicle with the capability of transporting a passenger in a wheelchair at a fixed cost.
  5. The taxi company needs to be informed:
    1. the purpose for which the vehicle is required
    2. of the time of pick up
    3. the destination
    4. the time of pick up for coming back (if applicable)
    5. the number of corrections officers that will accompany the prisoner.
  6. Normal [Prisoner transportation (IOMS) form] needs to be completed and approved.
  7. Restraint requirements will be determined via the [Prisoner transportation (IOMS) risk assessment process].
  8. The escort needs to be carried out as per the [Prisoner transportation (IOMS) approved instructions].
  9. At least two Corrections officers are required to carry out escorts where a prisoner needs to remain seated in a wheelchair during escort.
  10. Apart from driving, the taxi driver must not be used for any other duties of the escort.

M.04.01.12 Transporting a prisoner detained under Mental Health Act and/or Intellectual Disability Act

  • MH(CAT) Act - Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992
  • ID(CCR) Act - Intellectual Disability (Compulsory and Care and Rehabilitation) Act 2003
  • CP(MIP) Act - Criminal Procedure (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act 2003

MoH and Corrections note that legal custody of Special Patients and Special Care recipients (including during transport) lies with the Regional Forensic Mental Health Service (RFMHS) or Care Facility when the individual is being transported from a RFMHS or Care Facility to another health setting, or to courts.

The RFMHS or Care Facility will only request Corrections assistance with the transport of a patient if the patient is considered high risk and the facility would not otherwise be able to carry out the escort safely.

Department of Corrections staff or a contractor on behalf of the Department, agrees to provide a vehicle for transport along with Corrections officer to drive the vehicle if the following criteria is met:

  • The request is made by the RFMHS or Care Facility with sufficient notice.
  • The prison has sufficient resources to carry out the transport without impacting on custodial operations.
  • The Care Facility has provided enough information to support that the patient is high risk and that the escort would be unmanageable for the facility to conduct the escort independently.
  • The [M.04.01.Form.03a Trip Plan for Special Patients and Special Care Recipient] is signed by both, the Director of Mental Health and Addiction and the relevant Regional Commissioner.

The destinations for transportations are:

  • Secure transport to and from Regional Forensic Mental Health Service (RFMHS) or Care Facility to and from Court.
  • Secure transport, (if agreed by both agencies), as necessary to and from RFMHS or Care Facility to and from medical or dental appointments.
  • Secure transport, as necessary, to and from prison to and from RFMHS or Care Facility.

The Ministry of Health before requesting transportation assistant will seek alternatives such as; postponement, audio-visual link (AVL) whenever practicable.

Trip plan

Prior to the escort occurring Corrections staff must:

  • sight [M.04.01.Form.03a Trip Plan for Special Patients and Special Care Recipients]. The trip plan is completed by Ministry of Health in consultation with Corrections (Vehicle type, e.g.: single cell. Vehicle number plate and model). The [M.04.01.Form.03a Trip Plan for Special Patients and Special Care Recipients] may authorise restraints of a transported person that is the least restrictive and any other use of force. The plan must be agreed to by both Ministry of Health and Corrections prior to the trip commencing.
  • complete [M.04.01.Form.03 Prisoner escort journey plan] as per POM [M.04 External Movements]. Corrections staff have authority to use restraints and any other use of force that has been authorised in the [M.04.01.Form.3a Trip Plan for Special Patients and Special Care Recipients.

In the event of an emergency and corrections staff have not been authorised to use restraints or any other use of force the RFMHS staff will take the lead and may ask Corrections staff to call 111 and/or drive to the nearest Police station.

*[Crimes Act 1961 Section 48] (Defence against assault) provides every person with legal justification to use force or restraint that is reasonable in the circumstances, in self-defence and defence of another.

Type of offender and destinationCriteria
Special Patients under s45 of the MH(CAT) Act, 1992 Prisoners who are subject to assessment for mental disorder, including those who have been assessed as mentally disordered under s11 of the MH(CAT) Act.
Special Patients under s46 of the MH(CAT) Act, 1992 Prisoners who are identified as able to benefit from psychiatric treatment in RFMHS and who consent to being admitted to the RFMHS.
Special Care Recipients under s35(1) of the ID(CCR) Act, 2003 Prisoners who are sent to a hospital or to a Care Facility for assessment and/or are awaiting a compulsory care order from the court.
Special Patients under s34(1)(a)(i) of the CP(MIP) Act, 2003 Convicted offenders who are ordered by the court to be detained as a Special Patient under the ID(CCR) Act in addition to a prison sentence ('Hybrid order').
Special Care Recipients under s34(1)(a)(ii) of the CP(MIP) Act. Convicted offenders who are ordered by the court to be detained as a special care recipient under the ID(CCR) Act in addition to a prison sentence ('Hybrid order').
Prisoners taken to hospitals etc. for examination under s41 of the CP(MIP) Act, 2003 A person detained under s38(2)(b) of the CP(MIP) Act in a prison, who is taken to a hospital, facility, or other appropriate place for examination.
Custodial remands (as locally agreed). People who have been remanded by the court to the RFMHS or secure facility (for instance under sections 23 (2)(b), 42 or 44(1) or 38(2)(c) of the CP(MIP) Act).

Notifications (Corrections Regulations 2005 regulation 8

In the event of the transfer of a prisoner:

  • from a prison to a psychiatric hospital or secure facility, or
  • a psychiatric hospital or secure facility to a prison.

The manager of the prison concerned must ensure that notice is given promptly to:

  1. the prisoner's nominated contact person or if the prisoner has not nominated any such person, the prisoner's next of kin;* and
  2. if the prisoner is a service prisoner, the prisoner’s commanding officer.

*Note: If the prisoner asks the manager not to notify his / her nominated contact person or their next of kin, the prison director must comply with the request.

Where VNR prisoners are transported, the local prison VNR coordinator must be informed.