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Call For Independent Inquiry Into Chch Prisons

10 June 2001

Mark Calls For Independent Inquiry Into Christchurch Prisons

New Zealand First spokesman for Corrections, Ron Mark MP, today called on the Minister of Corrections, the Hon Matt Robson, to launch a full and independent inquiry into the management of Canterbury prisons to investigate wide ranging allegations of poor to corrupt management practices.

“Over the past few months I have had representations from a very diverse group of New Zealanders who have told me unbelievable stories about questionable activities inside of Canterbury’s prisons. Some of which go back to the hostage taking situation in 1998 where former officers say management covered up the real truth of their failure to prevent it ever happening despite ample warning been given.

“I am led to believe that some serving officers knew the truth and covered for management who subsequently became beholding to those officers. Some say this is the reason that certain people in the infamous Emergency Response Team have remained untouchable despite strong recommendations that they be dismissed,” said Mr Mark.

“I am told that inmates who know too much are pampered to and given special treatment for fear that they might talk and how some senior management personnel sought to take advantage of proposals to privatise prison services by giving highly confidential information to persons who were going to tender.

“I have also heard stories of how a former senior manager of a Canterbury prison set out to destroy a number of officer’s careers by targeting them and maintaining secret files on them for personal reasons. I have heard of how on the other hand, an officer convicted of sexual impropriety with inmates was subsequently reinstated in his job. I have also heard and read bizarre reports on the activities of the Emergency Response Team which deployed to Dunedin on various occasions in “para military” fashion to carry out close quarter protection and surveillance tasks that should have been a reserve of the New Zealand Police Force. Not Corrections.

“I am aware that there are a large number of prison staff who, after taking up issues with management, have been ignored and then feel powerless because to speak out openly would be to breach the Corrections Department Code of Silence which would result in their dismissal. For those who might have mortgages, hire purchases and children to clothe and feed, they are effectively gagged.

“I know some investigations have been conducted, but are curious as to why information gathered in those investigations is now not available to me for my scrutiny,” said Mr Mark.

“I am probably one of the strongest voices for harsher and longer sentences of those who are sent to our prisons for their crimes against society. But I equally loath and despise corruption and do not want to see good officers leave, or the international integrity or credibility of our justice systems undermined by a few corrupt individuals/practices.

“Such practices must therefore either be exposed and dealt with.

“I call upon the Minister of Corrections to launch an immediate inquiry into the management of Canterbury's Corrections Department over the past four to five years with a view to rooting out any corruption that might exist in whatever form,” said Ron Mark.


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