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Corrections releases Crimes of Torture Act reports

Corrections releases COTA reports

To be attributed to Chief Custodial Officer Neil Beales:

The United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture establishes an international inspection system for places of detention.

The Ombudsmen has responsibility under the Crimes of Torture Act (COTA) for examining and monitoring the general conditions and treatment of detainees in New Zealand prisons.

Inspectors from the Ombudsman’s Office made unannounced visits to Arohata, Manawatu and Invercargill Prisons and Otago Corrections Facility, and Corrections today released the reports relating to the inspections of the four prisons, subject to some redactions for security reasons.

The COTA inspectors made many positive findings about each prison, such as prisoners being complimentary about staff, prisoners feeling there was a staff member they could turn to for help if they had a problem, and cells being clean, tidy and well maintained.

Corrections takes its duty of care towards prisoners seriously and is committed to managing all prisoners in a safe, secure, humane and effective manner.

Prisoners have the right to be treated with humanity, dignity and respect while in prison, therefore there are a number of human rights standards in place to ensure safe detention.

If a prisoner believes their human rights have been breached, they have a number of complaints processes they can follow (such as internal complaints processes, the Inspector of Corrections, and the Ombudsman).

Many of the recommendations made by the Ombudsman have already been carried out and Corrections is continuing work to progress recommendations that require action. Some recommendations were not accepted.

Cameras
Corrections takes the matter of prisoner dignity and privacy seriously. All possible steps are taken to ensure that privacy is provided where it is possible and appropriate. Our paramount concern is to manage prisoners in a safe environment. Cameras are used in accordance with the Corrections Act 2004 and Corrections Regulations 2005, which state that sentences must be administered in a “safe, secure, humane, and effective manner.”

Concerns about privacy in safe cells must be secondary to the risk posed to a prisoner’s life. The ability of staff to remotely observe prisoners in safe cells has meant that on numerous occasions they have prevented a potential prisoner suicide or self harming incident.
For secure cells, camera footage is an important tool in order to provide evidence of a prisoner’s actions and to protect staff from unfounded allegations.

Installation of privacy screens around the toilet area in the secure unit cells is not accepted as a recommendation because Corrections deems this would not be consistent with safe custodial management.

(Note: comments about cameras related only to safe or at-risk cells, and secure cells, not mainstream cells. At-risk or safe cells are used for prisoners at risk of self-harm or suicide.)

Cameras monitoring women being strip searched
The camera is to ensure the safety of staff while they are conducting searches, and is not intended to capture footage of women while they are being strip searched. The search area has been marked to ensure that the prisoners do not enter the view of the camera. Signage has been added to ensure that women know that if they stay behind the marked area, the camera cannot view them.

Prisoners feeling unsafe
While Corrections manages some of the country’s most challenging and violent individuals, intimidation and threatening behaviour in prisons is not tolerated and any prisoner who exhibits such behaviour will be held to account.

Corrections has developed a Prison Tension Assessment Tool (PTAT) to help corrections officers assess the overall level of tension in units. This will enable actions to be taken where needed to reduce concerns. The PTAT tool has been trialled at prisons around NZ and been used by Invercargill Prison since September 2016.

At Manawatu Prison, a prisoner safety survey was completed. The site prisoner representative committee meet monthly with a Principal Corrections Officer to raise any concerns. They also meet with the Prison Director and other managers quarterly.

Complaints process
An enhanced complaints process for prisoners has been introduced. The process supports frontline staff to effectively resolve complaints at the lowest possible level, including being responsive to issues before they result in a complaint. A national Complaints Response Desk has been set up to support frontline staff with complaint resolution and field calls from prisoners and offenders before issues are escalated further. Prisoners and offenders will still be able to call the Corrections Inspectorate.

Prison Directors will ensure that all prisoners can readily access complaint forms. Prisoners are also able to call the 0800 INSPECTOR number and the Ombudsman to escalate a complaint if they have an issue with how their complaint has been handled.
Length of time between evening meal and breakfast
Current meal times meet operational requirements while taking into account staffing levels and unlock regimes. Section 72 of the Corrections Act 2004 requires that every prisoner is provided with “a sufficient quantity of wholesome food and drink based on the food and nutritional guidelines for the time being issued by the Ministry of Health.” The section makes no reference to the times food is to be served. We consider that prisoner meals are sufficient in terms of quantity and quality. The current prison menus were developed with input from the Ministry of Health, Diabetes Life Education and the Heart Foundation in consultation with a clinical dietician. The menus provide adequate amounts of all food groups and vitamins and minerals. They are basic, nutritious and rotate every four weeks.
The prison shop (P119) offers limited healthy options.
P119 purchases are intended to be in addition to the food provided by the Department for meals, which is considered to be a sufficient full diet in quantity and quality. There are sufficient numbers of healthy choices on the current list including fruit, muesli bars and nuts.

Arohata Prison – Balance of male/female staff at night
A review of male/female staffing ratio took place in February 2016 and as a result new female staff have been employed at Arohata Prison. There are now more female staff on the roster.

ENDS

The reports can be found here – http://www.corrections.govt.nz/news/media-releases/2016_media_releases/corrections_releases_cota_reports.html

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