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Minister welcomes independent report on Rimutaka

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Corrections


14 February 2008
Media statement

Minister welcomes independent report on Rimutaka Prison

Corrections Minister Phil Goff has welcomed the findings of an independent investigation into allegations of corruption at Rimutaka Prison.

The investigation was carried out on behalf of the Corrections Department chief executive by barrister David Patten, following claims of staff corruption by former department employees.

“While the investigation has confirmed a number of instances of inappropriate behaviour, the report, like the major review of the prisons by the Ombudsman in 2005, finds no evidence of systemic corruption. I welcome that assurance and New Zealanders should be reassured by that,” Mr Goff said.

“That is not to say that individual instances of corrupt behaviour do not happen.

“The Patten report notes that those found to have acted inappropriately have been subject to disciplinary action, including one case being referred to the police for possible prosecution.

“The Corrections Department is a large organisation employing more than 5000 staff, 500 of whom work at Rimutaka Prison. In any organisation of this size there is always a risk that a very small minority will be influenced by personal greed or subject to intimidation by prisoners to behave inappropriately. Zero tolerance should be given to any person who behaves corruptly or dishonestly.

“The vast majority of Corrections staff are honest and hardworking and do a good job in difficult circumstances. The report acknowledges this fact.

“Many of the allegations raised could not be substantiated, despite repeated attempts by investigators to gain evidence from those alleging misconduct,” Mr Goff said.

“I regret that a number of people who have made serious allegations were not prepared to support those allegations by cooperating with the independent investigation.

“Recommendations ensuring employment investigations are processed quickly and necessary improvements in management are important. Progress has been made in both of these areas, as acknowledged in the report, but I look forward to further improvement in this area.

“Problems at Rimutaka Prison, caused by an 80 per cent increase in prisoner and staff numbers within a four-year period, are being addressed through the Rimutaka Improvement Project.

“A number of initiatives to ensure professional standards among staff across New Zealand prisons have been and are being put in place. These include a Corrections Bill currently before Parliament to strengthen powers to search staff. Greater powers have also been given to the Ombudsman to investigate complaints and systemic issues within prisons. Corrections has also enhanced its intelligence gathering capability through a crime prevention information capability and set up a professional standards unit to conduct investigations into allegations of inappropriate staff behaviour.”

Mechanisms in place to ensure integrity and transparency in the corrections system and to deal with inappropriate behaviour by prisoners, staff or management include:

- The role of the Ombudsman to oversee complaints and other issues,
- The Corrections Inspectorate,
- The 0800jailsafe freephone number available for any person to report any concerns about prison practices,
- The Protected Disclosures Act 2000,
- The chief executive can order an independent investigation or police investigation,
- Telephone call monitoring and mail screening to detect unlawful or inappropriate activity.

“These measures and new initiatives help ensure that cases of inappropriate behaviour are investigated thoroughly and are referred to the police where there is evidence of criminal behaviour,” Mr Goff said.

ENDS

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