Report under Section 190 of the Corrections Act 2004

Section 190 of the Corrections Act 2004 prescribes particular issues that must be reported on in the Department's Annual Report. These issues and the Department's achievements in the period from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006 are detailed below.


This aspect reports on how the Chief Executive has carried out his functions under section 8(1)(k), of ensuring that processes are established and maintained to identify communities significantly affected by policies and practices in the corrections system, and giving opportunities for those communities to give their views on those policies and practices, and ensured those views were taken into account, together with information on how prison managers have carried out this responsibility.

Regional Managers are required by the General Manager of the Public Prisons Service to engage with local communities on a regular basis. The processes established to assist engagement are described in the following publications:

  • Public Prisons Service manuals and guidelines
  • Release of Official Information: Guideline for Coordination
  • Consultation requirements as set by local authorities
  • Performance management system.

The major issues for the Public Prisons Service requiring consultation with community organisations during 2005/06 included:

  • the construction and opening of new corrections facilities
  • the transfer of existing facilities out of a community
  • changes to existing operations and facilities.

Through staff and community networks, public meetings, hui, and the media; opportunities were made available for community involvement to identify issues that could both positively and negatively impact on a community, provide opportunities for positive contributions by a community, to pass on information regarding departmental and prison activities; and to ensure that the Department complied with legislative requirements.


This aspect reports on the work undertaken by inspectors of prisons, including statistical information about the disposition of complaints and comment on issues arising from complaints or visits.

The Prison Inspectorate was first established in 1954 under the provisions of the Penal Institutions Act of that year. The legislation established a dedicated complaints resolution, investigation and general assurance function, reporting directly to the Chief Executive independently of prison line management. The level of statutory protection afforded to the Inspectors' role and reporting level was in direct recognition of the high level of risk attached to prison management and the need to provide a level of legislative protection for the Inspector's functions. That arrangement was retained upon the devolution of sentence management functions to the new Department of Corrections in 1995 and has also been reflected in the provisions of the Corrections Act 2004. The major change for the Inspectorate arising out of the 2004 legislation is the formal extension of the Inspectors' role to cover community-based sentences in addition to the traditional prison focus.

This is the second formal report prepared by the Senior Inspector since the Corrections Act 2004 came into force. As anticipated, community-based sentences have generated a very low volume of complaints to the Inspectors, with only six being received in the year. None of these complaints was upheld. The reasons for the low volume are twofold. Firstly, the Community Probation Service has traditionally had a robust internal complaints process in place for offenders. As a result, offender issues are effectively resolved at operational level. Secondly, community-based offenders are able to carry on with their normal lives while serving their sentences. They therefore have ready access to their normal support networks, and the coercive power of the State is significantly less immediate than would be the case were they serving a sentence of imprisonment. This report therefore deals primarily with prison-related matters.

Despite a slight drop in the volume of complaints to the Inspectorate towards the end of 2004/05, the year 2005/06 has been another record year in terms of prisoner contacts with and complaints to the Inspectorate. Prisoners sought 5,754 contacts with the Inspectors during 2005/06. This figure includes some 600 interviews conducted during routine prison visits, but the bulk of prisoner contacts are now through the Inspectors' direct 0800 telephone service for prisoners and their families. Not all prisoner contacts generate complaints. Many prisoners are simply seeking advice, information, or assurance that they have been managed appropriately. However, 3,589 formal complaints were dealt with by the Inspectors during the year. This figure is the highest since these statistics were first collected in 1997. This is due in large measure to the increase in the prison population over that time, although it is noted that while complaint numbers have doubled since 1 July 2000, the prison population has risen by only a third in that time. The increase in complaint volume is therefore far in excess of the increase in prison population. As noted in the 2004/05 report, high prisoner levels and the resultant increase in prisoner movements of themselves generate tensions among staff, prisoners and their families alike. That inevitably results in a higher incidence of complaint.

The definition of what constitutes a justified complaint was changed at the start of the 2005/06 year. This has had the effect of lowering the threshold of what constitutes a justified complaint. A complaint is now defined as justified if it requires the intervention of an Inspector in order to achieve the appropriate outcome for the prisoner concerned. Despite the high volume of complaints to the Inspectors, the incidence of justified complaints remains relatively low. There were 114 justified complaints to the Inspector during the year. This represents 3.2% of the total number of complaints received. Given the change in definition, comparison of the number of justified complaints with the numbers in previous years is not possible.

A number of areas have been drawn to management's attention during the year, arising out of the Inspectors' complaints activity. The most significant of these are as follows:

  • There is a continuing high incidence of prison property complaints. Property complaints also generated the second highest incidence of justified complaints at 5.6%. As noted in my previous report, the property management systems themselves appear adequate provided they are properly implemented. Many property complaints could be avoided by greater care in itemising property, and ensuring that prisoners have adequate time to check and sign for property during transfer movements. It is my view, however, that as long as the present range and volume of personal property is permitted in our prisons, errors in property handling are likely to remain a concern. This is particularly so while prison population pressure necessitates the current high level of prisoner movements. Attractive items of personal property within a prison also have a significant potential for victimisation and peer pressure among prisoners. It may be timely for the Department to consider carrying out a comprehensive review of prisoner property and clothing with a view to reducing handling errors and compensation costs, and enhancing prisoner safety.
  • Of equal concern, however, is the category of staff conduct and attitude. The Inspectors received 214 complaints in this category during 2005/06. 4.5% of complaints in this category were found to be justified during 2005/06. (There are no comparable figures for 2004/05 because of the revised definition for justified complaints as from 1 July 2005). The nature and dynamics of prisons require a constant, consistent and ongoing management presence right down at unit floor level in order to monitor and reinforce the desired behaviours. The time demands placed on today's prison managers, particularly in investigating incidents, complaints and allegations, and in dealing with the effects of constant change rarely allow this ideal to be achieved.

The Inspectorate's visiting programme includes a number of system reviews which focus on those areas of prison activity that generate the greatest level of risk to safe, fair and humane treatment. There were four areas of focus review undertaken during the year. These were:

  • the use of force
  • the system for identifying and managing prisoners at risk to themselves
  • the prisons' internal complaints system
  • the arrangements prisons have in place to ensure regular specialist sanitation and hygiene inspections are carried out and any issues arising are addressed.

The results of these reviews were as follows:

  • A reasonable level of assurance can be given that the required system for managing the use of force is in place and being operated in practice. Some minor recording matters were drawn to management's attention at some sites but in general use of force incidents were well documented. In particular there was good evidence that prisoners were given every reasonable opportunity to comply with a lawful order before force was used.
  • A reasonable level of assurance can be given that the required system for managing prisoner complaints at prison site level is in place at each prison. Some consistent shortcomings were noted, however, in its implementation. These included:
  • Interview/Complaint forms were not readily available to prisoners at some sites.
  • Some sites were using unofficial 'forms' instead of the required Interview/Complaint form.
  • A receipt was not always given to prisoners immediately an Interview/Complaint form was submitted.
  • The timeframes for logging Interview/Complaint forms into the IOMS system were not always met.
  • The timeframes for dealing with complaints were not always met.
  • A number of complaints, while properly resolved, were incorrectly classified as 'interviews'.
  • A reasonable level of assurance can be given that the system for identifying and managing prisoners at risk to themselves is in place and being operated in practice. However, despite some improvement in this aspect over the year, there is still a need for all available information to be included when carrying out prisoner risk assessments. This applies to file information, pre-sentence information, and information from other sources within the prison such as medical.

In addition to their role in complaints resolution, the Inspectors have undertaken 15 full investigations of significant prison incidents, including 13 deaths in custody. The Inspectors have also monitored the conduct and outcome of internal prison investigations into other prisoner related incidents and allegations.

The most consistent areas of concern arising out of the investigations and monitoring assignments carried out by the Inspectors during 2005/06 were in relation to:

  • The need for staff to carry out an adequate level of supervision, observation and routine security checking of prisoners.
  • The need for assessing staff to carry out an adequate level of cross-matching of information when completing prisoner self-harm risk assessments.
  • The need for staff to report all incidents in a timely fashion, and for reports to be submitted by all staff who are involved in an incident.

It is disappointing to note that some of these areas were also noted in my previous report.

As with the matters arising out of the Inspectors' complaints activities and routine visits, these areas of concern are the subject of adequate and well-proven systems, instructions and procedural requirements. The issues identified are more about the compliance in practice with those systems, and the provision of adequate management resources to ensure that the required standards are maintained.

The Department of Corrections has seen some sweeping changes in its strategic direction, its structure and its management systems since its beginnings in 1995. All of this has been necessary, but it has resulted in ten years of constant change. Along with these internal changes, the Department has also reflected the changes that have occurred in society at large. Not the least of these has been an unprecedented level of external scrutiny. While these changes have been necessary, they have inevitably distracted attention from the day-to-day basic prison operation. I believe there is a need for the Department to re-focus on these basics so as to ensure a strict adherence to policies and sound operating practice at prison unit level. In order to achieve that, it will be necessary to provide sufficient management resources to adequately monitor what is going on in the prison units on a day-to-day basis.

The Inspectorate has reported progressively throughout the year on the matters arising out of their various activities to operational management, the Chief Executive and the Assurance Board. It is encouraging to note the positive response at all levels to the findings and recommendations that have been made, and the genuine desire of everyone involved to get it right.

Prisons are difficult and often dangerous places. Their very dynamics will inevitably generate incidents and the unexpected. That makes them an easy target for criticism and generalisation which in turn can be extremely demoralising and destructive for staff and management who are constantly under pressure and trying to do their best. I believe, however, that despite the certainty that amid the thousands of contacts, transactions, movements and interactions that take place in every prison on every day of every year incidents will happen.

The Department can be proud of the general quality of its services, and the level of dedication shown by the majority of staff and managers.

Section 190(1)(c)(d)(e)

This aspect describes the processes and systems in place to supervise and control the monitoring of prisoner calls, including statistics on the proportion of prisoner calls monitored and the number and percentage of calls disclosed under section 117(1) and (2):

  • to any person other than an employee of the Chief Executive
  • to an employee of the Chief Executive
  • number of proceedings against a person for a disciplinary offence in which a recording of any of those calls was used in evidence.

Legislative authority for the Department to monitor prisoners' telephone calls is provided under sections 111 to 122 of the Corrections Act 2004. As a result of serious breaches in prison security, the Government approved additional funding in 2004 to enhance prison security by introducing a system and staff to monitor prisoner's telephone calls, and collect and analyse data that contributes to increased Crime Prevention Information Capability (CPIC).

The Terms of Reference for the CPIC project has been developed and the deliverables will include:

  • developing a model of CPIC staffing
  • purchasing and developing a secure database
  • integrating a secure database with IOMS
  • purchasing and building a telephone monitoring system
  • developing a training plan for all staff.

Section 190(1)(f)

This aspect provides a report on measures to reduce drug and alcohol use by prisoners and the effectiveness of those measures, random-testing programmes and the results of those programmes.

The Department's progress in reducing drug and alcohol use by prisoners is reported in Part 2 (pp 19-52) and Part 4 (pp 73-155) of this Annual Report. (Outcome Achievements and Output 5.6)

Section 190(1)(g)

This aspect provides a report on the operation of every security contract in force for the whole, or any part, of the year to which the annual report relates, including:

  • a summary of reports forwarded to the Chief Executive under S171(2) and (3)
  • a summary of reports made to the Chief Executive under S172(2)(b)
  • a summary of actions taken in relation to the operation of security contracts as a result of matters raised in any report forwarded.

The Department's contract with Chubb New Zealand Limited is for the escort and court room supervision of prisoners in Auckland and Northland. Chubb's performance over the 2005/06 financial year was in line with contract expectations. The General Manager of Chubb NZ provided the Department with monthly reporting outlining performance for measures such as escapes, releases in error, prisoner deaths, prisoner injuries, complaints, staff personal grievances and disciplinary actions.

Section 190(1)(h)

This aspect provides a report on the operation of any contract prison, including a summary of reports by the manager of the contract prison, including:

  • a summary of reports forwarded to the Chief Executive under S214(2) and (3)
  • a summary of reports made to the Chief Executive under S215(2)(b)
  • a summary of actions taken in relation to the management of contract prisons as a result of matters raised in any report forwarded.

The Auckland Central Remand Prison was the first privately-run prison in New Zealand and was initially managed by Australasian Correctional Management Limited (ACM), which later became GEO Group Australia Pty Limited. ACM/GEO negotiated a five year contract with the Department of Corrections to manage the prison. With the passing of the Corrections Act 2004, management of the Auckland Central Remand Prison reverted back to the Department on 12 July 2005.

GEO performance over the 2004/05 financial year was in line with contract expectations. GEO provided the Department with monthly and quarterly reports which outlined performance against set criteria for incidents, complaints, searches, disciplinary proceedings, drug testing, and programme delivery.