Public Safety is Improved
|A safe and secure Corrections system is fundamental to providing public safety in New Zealand, and to delivering an effective justice system.|
Pressure on the prison network
Capacity pressures provide challenges to maintaining the integrity of sentences and orders and minimising the risks of harm to others.
Record prison population
Corrections has targeted strategies to manage an increasing prisoner population, these include certain prison capacity buffers as well as increasing the number of beds available at certain prisons.
The prison population reached a high of 8,906 on 29 June 2015, above the projected maximum of 8,393. This was the culmination of a pattern that has stretched throughout the financial year, with an average 2014/15 prison population of 8,732 compared to 8,460 in 2013/14. The higher than expected population has meant that standard, pre-prepared prison capacity has been full for the majority of the year, and more than half of prepared buffer capacity has also been utilised. The opening of Auckland South Corrections Facility and other additional beds in other parts of the estate are helping to address this pressure, and there is a planned net increase of 433 beds in 2015/16.
Increase in remandees
A major component of the increase has been in prisoners on remand. The average number of remandees has increased from 1,694 in 2013/14 to 1,977 in 2014/15. This increase has been even greater as a proportion of the prison population, rising to 23% of the total in 2014/15 from 20% in 2013/14. The higher number is itself a challenge for staff, as prisoner placements, interactions, and transportations all become more frequent and complex in line with the increase. Remandees represent a particular challenge as they are outside of the scope of most rehabilitation programmes, and have security and segregation requirements that are above those of average sentenced prisoners. In 2014/15 remandees have also been over-represented in violent incidents.
Minimising risks of harm to others
Corrections is committed to providing the safest possible environment for staff, the community, and prisoners. A multifaceted approach is in place to manage safety throughout the prison network.
Outcomes in 2014/15
Serious assaults are defined as “an act of physical violence that involves one or more of the following: sexual assault of any form and degree; bodily harm requiring medical intervention (assessment including medical treatment) by medical staff followed by overnight hospitalisation in a medical facility or bodily harm requiring extended periods of ongoing medical intervention.”
Serious assaults on prisoners by other prisoners decreased in 2014/15 compared to 2013/14. The number of serious assaults on staff increased by three compared to the previous financial year, but has continued a longer term decline from 2011/12.
The number of staff days lost to injury has decreased from 15,863 to 14,107. While we cannot link time lost due to injuries to the injuries’ specific causes (such as assaults), the decline is a positive trend in terms of staff health and safety overall.
The number of non-serious and no injury assaults on staff and prisoners have increased between 2013/14 and 2014/15. While this is a matter that requires further strategic focus, it can be seen in the context of improved reporting as a result of the campaign to make violence in prisons unacceptable. It may also be linked to the increasing number of prisoners on remand (and with indicators of high-risk and complex needs), as these individuals do not have access to the full range of rehabilitative programmes, can be suffering from recent abuse of alcohol or drugs and can be volatile as a result of uncertainty while awaiting trials or sentences.
Zero tolerance for violence
Corrections has a policy of zero tolerance for violence, although it is sometimes unavoidable in the context of our work. In 2014/15 we have worked to transform attitudes towards violence in prisons, moving through the second year of our three year Staff Safety Plan. The plan has seen the introduction of new staff capabilities and reporting systems, designed to frame all violence as unacceptable.
Responding to assaults in prisons
We work in challenging environments with some of New Zealand’s most violent individuals. Violence is always a risk to our staff, as many offenders use violent behaviour to resolve issues or express themselves.
Every violent incident is taken seriously, and staff are trained to respond immediately when such incidents occur. Staff in prisons carry radios and will be assisted within minutes of an alarm being activated. Additional staff can then bring the incident under control. Longer term responses can include moving perpetrators or victims to different units or facilities to reduce the potential for further violence, reviewing prisoner security classifications, changing our operational procedures, conducting internal investigations, or referring the matter to police to be treated as a criminal investigation. The safety of both prisoners and staff is our overriding priority, and we will continue working to reduce the harm caused by the offender population through prudent management of our estate, optimisation of the prison network, and investments in the capabilities and equipment of our staff.
Implementing the Staff Safety Plan
As part of our journey to becoming a Zero Harm Workplace, the department has implemented a number of major health and safety initiatives over the previous 12 months. Central to these has been the three year Staff Safety Plan, the second year of which was completed in June 2015. Numerous initiatives have been put in place, designed to improve the quality and suitability of equipment, to expand and enhance the capabilities of staff and to increase the transparency and effectiveness of Corrections’ health and safety systems.
The Staff Safety Plan
The Staff Safety Plan is a comprehensive three year work programme, which began in July 2013. The plan is based on findings from the 2012 Staff Safety Expert Advisory Panel and has five priorities: visible leadership, enhanced staff capabilities, effective communication, more appropriate tools and resources, and improved processes, all of which are oriented to make staff safety their guiding principle. The plan’s first year established a ‘new normal’ for Corrections’ facilities, including a comprehensive campaign to reshape prisoner attitudes and make violence unacceptable, and an overriding consideration for the safety of staff in all contexts. In its second year the plan has seen new equipment, capabilities and organisational processes piloted and put in place, in line with the prioritisation of safety that has become standard practice.
Improvements to Personal Protective Equipment
By the end of June 2015 Corrections had reached an advanced preparatory stage in the deployment of several new items of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for prison staff. This equipment includes lightweight stab resistant body armour (SRBA), as well as on-body cameras and slash-proof gloves. Testing of these items has demonstrated their capacity to enhance the flexibility and effectiveness of responses to challenging situations within the prison environment, reducing the potential for violence to break out, escalate or expand.
Stab resistant body armour
Corrections’ current stab resistant body armour (SRBA) is designed as an emergency response vest and is intended for use in high-risk weaponised environments. While these are necessary for some of the environments in which we operate, they have been found to cause overheating and fatigue, and are inappropriate for standard use.
The rollout of new, lightweight SRBA is expected to be complete by December 2015. The new SRBA is more suitable for longer periods of use, providing protection from most weapons encountered in prison environments and aligning more closely with the risk profile of Corrections’ work. It is consistent with the specifications of SRBA used by New Zealand Police and offers a mounting solution for on-body cameras.
On-body cameras were piloted in Rimutaka and Auckland Prisons between January and June 2014. The cameras were shown to have a calming effect on interactions between prisoners and staff, and staff reported that they felt safer and more confident when going about their duties. In all scenarios the trial showed positive outcomes, with a drop in prisoner related incidents of up to 20% compared to the same time in the previous year. Further testing of on-body cameras began at Arohata Prison on 18 June 2015. For further roll out of on-body cameras we are in the process of evaluating technology products that meet the operational requirements and maximises staff time efficiencies.
Slash and needle stick resistant gloves have been provided to all frontline custodial staff. These allow searches of prisoners and property to take place with substantially reduced risk, as investigators’ hands are generally protected from being cut or otherwise injured by concealed objects. This improves the integrity of the prison system by making the concealment of contraband more difficult and enhances the safety of Corrections’ staff when searches take place.
Enhancing staff capabilities
The capabilities of staff are central to success in any organisation, and Corrections is no exception. Over the 2014/15 financial year we have invested significantly in improving the capability of staff within environments that can be dangerous and unpredictable, and in which flexible and well-managed responses can have transformational positive impacts. As part of this, 2014/15 has seen the piloting of Site Emergency Response Teams and training to increase staff awareness of mental health and its impacts upon offender behaviour.
Site Emergency Response Teams
On the basis of Recommendation 8 of the inquiry into the June 2013 riot at the Spring Hill Corrections Facility, a Site Emergency Response Team (SERT) was developed at the facility as an effective pilot for such teams throughout the prison network. These teams are designed to bridge a capability gap between standard Control and Restraint and the Advanced Control and Restraint teams that can take some time to arrive at the site of an incident. The SERT pilot began on 1 April 2015, and positive results have led to an accelerated programme for establishing SERTs across the prison network.
Mental health awareness
Mental health awareness training for staff has been expanded in the 2014/15 financial year. A suite of information has been created within the Community Probation Practice Centre online resource, which includes guidelines for staff to recognise and respond to offender behaviours that may be influenced by the state of their mental health. All staff are encouraged to build knowledge, understanding and skills around issues of mental wellbeing, and all probation staff will take part in a training programme for Mental Health and Suicide Awareness.
Physical Readiness Assessment
A Physical Readiness Assessment has been piloted at several sites, to ensure that custodial staff are able to meet the physical demands of responding to emergency situations.
|On-body cameras improved interactions between staff and offenders in all tested scenarios|
|Site Emergency Response Teams were successfully trialled at Spring Hill Corrections Facility, and are being expanded to an additional three sites|
Changes have also taken place at the national level, in particular with the establishment of the Executive Leadership Health and Safety Governance Committee. The Committee is chaired by the Chief Executive, and works to demonstrate leadership by exercising active oversight of significant operational issues relating to health and safety, as well as providing strategic governance in this area. Initiatives of the committee have been wide ranging and include systematic reviews of the most significant health and safety risks of Corrections’ activities, and developing targeted measures to improve the safety of critical exposures. Areas investigated by the committee include the use of quad bikes, the protection of staff from Hepatitis B and the safety of Corrections’ vehicle fleet.
Integrity of prison sentences
Preventing prisoner access to alcohol and drugs
Preventing prisoners from accessing alcohol and illicit drugs is of significant importance to maintaining the integrity of prison sentences and is challenging in a prison environment. Such substances can counteract efforts towards rehabilitation, especially for prisoners with histories of abuse, addiction or dependency. During the 2014/15 financial year 4,454 drugs tests were carried out in prisons under the general random drug testing regime, to assess the scope of the problem and the effectiveness of countermeasures. For the second year in a row the percentage of general random drug tests that returned positive results was 4% or lower, outperforming our target of 6% or less. The number of general random drug tests sampled was higher than in previous years (4,295 tests in 2013/14 and 4,454 tests in 2014/15) and the results represent an encouraging decline in the ability of prisoners to access drugs while in prison.
Improving site security
We are continually striving to improve upon our high standard of prisoner management, in line with our success in reducing numbers of escapes over time. Investment is ongoing in a range of security improvements across Corrections’ network, including the installation of new detection and surveillance systems, enhanced perimeter fencing and the introduction of single entry-points at all prisons.
Looking ahead, $40 million is being invested in upgrades to five prisons as part of our Prison Development programme. This will further improve site security and provide better facilities for rehabilitation, reintegration and training.
|Zero breakout escapes occured in 2014/15|
Reduced opportunities for escape
Zero prisoners have broken out of prison in 2014/15, and such breakout escapes have remained below three per year for the last four years. The six escapes that did occur in 2014/15 are classified as prisoners absconding or breaching temporary release, because they occured when the prisoners were already outside of prison. Two of these were during escorts to hospital, two during escorts to court, one from a prisoner work party outside of the prison, and one during an overnight temporary release. The department is taking steps in each of these areas to prevent similar events occuring in the future.
Escorted transits are one of the most common situations in which prisoners find opportunities to abscond. There are an average of over 60,000 transportations of prisoners each year and over 50% of these are between prisons and district courts. Each movement requires a secure escort provided either by Corrections or a contracted security provider, and Corrections currently maintains a fleet of over 100 vehicles for this purpose.
In 2010 we began the use of Audio-Visual Link (AVL) connections. These allow prisoners to attend remand hearings via a video link rather than appearing in person, resulting in fewer needing to leave secure facilities to make court appearances. This significantly reduced the need for transits and escorts, in turn reducing the risk of prisoners attempting to escape, acquiring contraband, or becoming violent during transport.
Our use of AVL connections reduced escorts of prisoners to courts by more than 3,500 in the six months to June 2015.
AVL has also contributed to our efforts to reduce re-offending, as it increases prisoners’ capacity to access rehabilitative programmes. Prisoners who are required to attend specific courts were previously held at sites close to the courts, even when appropriate rehabilitation services were only available at a different site. With the introduction of AVL, prisoners can now be held at facilities that do provide appropriate rehabilitation, and can attend court hearings through an AVL video link.
AVL also provides an opportunity for prisoners to maintain contact with friends and family, even when they are housed at a distant prison site.
Number of other escapes
Breach of temporary release
Breach of temporary release
A high profile incident occurred in late 2014, when a prisoner breached a 72 hour temporary release for home leave and left the country. Temporary releases are common practice for low security prisoners and can be central to successful reintegration. An approved sponsor was required to monitor the prisoner during his time outside of prison.
Corrections responded quickly to this incident, with all temporary releases suspended within five days of the breach. An internal review resulted in a ten point action plan and thirteen recommendations, all of which have been responded to by the department. Actions taken on the basis of the review and other investigations included the suspension of all temporary releases until new approval and monitoring systems were put in place, reviews of the psychological treatment and temporary releases of higher-risk prisoners, the exploration of closer links with New Zealand Customs Service and a wider inter-agency review into the sharing of information on offenders’ identities.
Advisory panels have been established in the wake of the escape, to provide a range of perspectives and information to prison directors when activities and interventions outside the prison perimeter are considered. Advisory panels are multi-disciplinary teams of Corrections’ staff, external agencies, and community representatives, who provide advice to enable more purposeful decision making. The inquiry into the escape, as well as amendments to the Parole Act 2002, have created an opportunity to enhance the pre-release phase of offenders’ sentences. In the future, temporary releases may be utilised as part of a graduated pre-release pathway.
Offenders in the community
Maintaining the integrity of sentences and orders served in the community, and holding offenders to account.
Managing offenders in the community to minimise risks of harm to others
An offender assessed as temporarily posing unusually high-risk of harm to another person or persons is managed in a more restrictive manner, to control and reduce the level of risk. Levels of supervision are responsive to regular risk assessments by probation staff.
The graph represents the rates of offences against the person (ie sexual or violent offences) which occurred during the course of a community sentence or order in each year given.
Reducing the number of offences of this nature is an important goal of community offender management. Results indicate that probation officers, in conjunction with partner agencies in the community, are doing an increasingly effective job at minimising instances of violent offending among offenders under their management.
Mandatory standards; ensuring compliance with sentences and orders
Compliance with sentences and orders is achieved when offenders comply with all directives and restrictions inherent to the sentence or order (attendance at programmes, non-association orders, residential or employment restrictions), are subject to appropriate consequences in the event of non-compliance, and complete the imposed sentence or order.
Any failure by an offender to comply with a requirement of the sentence is considered to be non-compliance. This could include failure to report as instructed, breaking a curfew, or failure to advise of an address change.
A key component of ensuring compliance, and that appropriate action is taken in the event of non-compliance, is ensuring that probation staff comply with a set of Mandatory Standards of Practice. The Mandatory Standards of Practice are designed to measure the quality of service provided by Corrections.
An average of around 29,500 offenders were being managed in the community at any one time in 2014/15. Probation officers manage the sentences and orders of these offenders, and the table below reports the percentage of offenders that were managed in accordance with our Mandatory Standards of Practice. The table shows that more than 92% of these sentences and orders have been managed appropriately for at least five consecutive years, and in most cases this figure has been above 95%.
Mandatory Standards of Practice are unique to each sentence or order, setting the minimum level of service to be delivered to each offender. New Standards of Practice for probation officers came into effect on 1 July 2015, and replaced ones that had been in place for the previous five years. The new Standards of Practice focus on the optimisation of rehabilitative outcomes, and streamlining practice across all sentences and orders to centre our efforts on offenders.
Compliance with sentences and orders
Home detention sentences
Post- release orders
Improvement and expansion of Electronic Monitoring
The 2014/15 financial year has seen the standardisation and expansion of Corrections’ Electronic Monitoring (EM) capabilities, representing an advance in our management of offenders on community-based sentences and orders. The number of EM providers has been reduced from three to one, standardising the procedures and accessibility of EM and providing a reliable and dynamic set of capabilities. More than 3,500 offenders were being monitored electronically by the end of June 2015.
Corrections’ Electronic Monitoring services have been transitioned to a single provider, with a single contract and a consistent set of capabilities. Services were previously provided through four contracts with three providers, with a range of different systems that provided different capabilities and required different skill sets and procedures to be used to their full capacity. Standardisation has made EM consistent across regions and sentence types, and the single contract allows for monitoring of a much higher number of offenders without a significant increase in costs.
The standardisation also improves the transferability of skills within Corrections, as staff will no longer need to become familiar with a new set of procedures and systems when they move from one area of EM to another.
Corrections’ staff, including probation officers and a dedicated National EM Response Team, use the 3M system to access information on an offender’s prohibited movements, as well as the areas and times in which they are permitted to travel and whether these are breached. When police are called to respond to breaches or tamper alerts , they can now be given real-time information about an offender’s location and movements, and a record of these is retained in 3M’s system for use in follow up responses.
Drug and alcohol testing of community-based offenders
On 26 February 2015, the first reading was made of a bill to allow drug and alcohol testing of offenders on community-based sentences, when they are subject to conditions prohibiting consumption or use. At present, such offenders are held to their conditions on the basis of observations and circumstantial evidence, neither of which provides consistent and reliable information for staff to identify and respond to violations. When the bill is passed it will enable Corrections and police to require such offenders to undergo drug and alcohol testing, greatly improving our capacity to hold offenders to account and maintain the integrity of their sentences.
|7,932 reports were provided to the New Zealand Parole Board in 2014/15|
|39,736 reports were provided to the courts in 2014/15|
The Judiciary and New Zealand Parole Board
Corrections works with the Judiciary and New Zealand Parole Board (NZPB) to ensure that they make informed decisions. The first priority is maintaining and improving public safety, followed by promoting rehabilitation to contribute to reducing re-offending. In line with these, Corrections provides advice and documentation to support the organisations’ assessments, helping them to make decisions that are appropriate for the individual circumstances of each offender.
We regularly compile information into integrated reports, which work through complex risk factors that can impact upon offenders’ abilities to complete sentences and orders, to put forward appropriate recommendations. These reports:
- assess the level of risk that an offender poses to those around them and the wider public
- detail previous breaches of sentences and orders by the offender
- detail the risk of escape
- detail support available to the offender through family/whänau and
- detail the potential for employment opportunities following release.
Public protection orders and extended supervision orders.
In December 2014 two Acts were passed that enhance Corrections’ ability to control high-risk offenders who have come to the end of prison sentences, allowing us to reduce the risk that such individuals pose to the safety of others. These bills are the Public Safety (Public Protection Orders) Act and Parole Amendment (Extended Supervision Orders) Act, and are aimed at protecting the public from serious violent and sexual offenders.
The first Act established a legal framework for public protection orders (PPOs); High Court orders that allow for the indefinite detention of individuals who have served a prison sentence but continue to pose an imminent risk of serious sexual or violent re-offending. These individuals will be housed within a secure and independent residence on the grounds of Christchurch Men’s Prison. They are civil detainees rather than prisoners, but their residence is controlled by Corrections and they are not permitted to re-enter the community.
Corrections will conduct reviews of each PPO on either an annual or biannual basis, and the orders will be reconsidered by the High Court at least once every five years. Lifetime detention is allowable under the law, but in each case an offender plan will be developed to set out milestones for eventual rehabilitation and release.
The second Act enhanced extended supervision orders (ESOs), allowing serious sexual and violent offenders to be monitored by Corrections after the end of prison sentences. ESOs hold offenders to a set of conditions following release from prison; previously these had been limited to ten years following release and could only be applied to child sex offenders. Conditions can now be renewed after the initial ten years, and can be applied to any sexual or violent offender who poses a serious risk to the community (although not so serious as to be held under a PPO). This means that the movement and activities of such offenders can be controlled, reducing their likelihood of entering situations where they are likely to re-offend. ESOs ensure that offenders remain visible to relevant agencies and that risks are identified and managed appropriately, without the restrictions that a prison sentence or PPO would place on the life of the offender.
Victims of Crime Reform Bill 2014
Under the law that came into force on 6 December 2014, the Department of Corrections has altered the way in which we keep registered victims notified about the status of those who offended against them. We are now required to notify victims of:
- all breaches of sentences and conditions by relevant offenders, not just breaches of parole, home detention and extended supervision, and advise victims of the Act that has been breached
- the deaths of any relevant offenders, not just those in prison, on home detention or extended supervision, and specify the sentence or conditions that the offender was serving at the time of death and
- any application by a relevant offender or their probation officer to have a sentence of home detention cancelled and substituted with another sentence.
The way that victims receive notifications at the end of an offender’s sentence has also changed. Previously a letter was sent to victims two weeks before the expiry of home detention or extended supervision sentences. The new legislation requires Corrections to notify victims about the end of all relevant sentences, and prior to the end date of release on conditions and parole.
Quality of victim notification services
There have been zero justified complaints made about victim notification services during 2014/15. This is in line with our target and an improvement on the two justified complaints received in 2013/14. This is a positive result and demonstrates year-on-year improvement.