Assaults in prisons

Corrections takes its responsibility to operate prisons that are safe for staff, prisoners, visitors, and the public extremely seriously. No violence towards staff or prisoners will be tolerated in prisons, and we expect any prisoner using such behaviour to be held to account for their actions. This can include facing internal and criminal charges.

Prisons can be volatile environments and a number of highly complex factors contribute to violence in prison. Despite fluctuations in the prison population in recent years, the proportion of those in prison with a tendency to commit violence has increased. More than 80% of the prison population have had convictions for violence in their offending histories, and around 37% have a gang affiliation which is a known predictor of violence. Gang members are over-represented in acts of disorder and violence in prison and are known to incite other people in prison to carry out violent acts on behalf of the gangs. A growing proportion of the prisoner population are on remand, and there is a strong statistical association between remand status and incidents of assault within prison.

Although the threat of violence is not something we can eliminate entirely, we are committed to doing everything possible to minimise this risk and provide the safest environment possible for staff and prisoners.

We have invested in training and tools to keep our people safe. This includes training in de-escalation techniques and interpersonal and tactical communication skills, and access to stab resistant vests, body worn cameras, and pepper spray.

We have also worked with Corrections Association of New Zealand (CANZ) and the New Zealand Public Service Association (PSA) to develop the Violence and Aggression Joint Action Plan, and all prison sites, now have an individual site safety plan to address violence and aggression. These plans are led by the Prison Director in consultation with local site union delegates.

Data set of assaults by prisoners – national and by prison

Quarterly assault statistics are available below. The data provided for the current financial year is as at 31 March 2024, and is subject to change until the full-year process has been completed.

Corrections classifies assaults under the following definitions:

  • Serious - an act of physical violence that involves one or more of the following:
    • bodily harm requiring medical intervention by medical staff followed by overnight hospitalisation (beyond initial assessment or medical observation) in a medical facility.
    • bodily harm requiring extended periods of on-going medical intervention.
    • sexual assault of any form where Police charges have been laid.
  • Non-serious - an act of physical violence that results in physical injuries that may require medical treatment, and/or overnight hospitalisation as part of initial assessment, or medical observation but not on-going medical treatment (e.g. blood nose, x-ray required, cuts requiring minimal stiches, gouging, or bites).
  • Non-injury - an act of physical violence that does not result in physical injuries or require any form of medical treatment (e.g. kicking, shoving, jostling, striking, or punching that did not result in injury).

Serious assaults represent a small proportion of the total assaults, but our view is that any assault is unacceptable. In recent years, we have placed an increased importance on staff recording prisoner on staff assaults, regardless of whether they result in injury.

Download assaults by prisoners data XLSX, 458.9 KB