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Prisoners with no toilets at Auckland Prison


22 February 2019

The Howard League for Penal Reform has been alerted by a prisoner to a situation at Auckland Prison where prisoners, who are locked in the day room, have no access to toilet facilities. A prisoner from Auckland Prison has written to the Howard League expressing his concern over these conditions. He writes:

"I have seen prisoners urinate in bottles, containers and the sink where prisoners wash their eating containers. This is inhumane treatment and poor prison management ... breaching so many laws ... [it] needs urgent attention."

"This is utterly unacceptable and must be rectified immediately" said Christine McCarthy, spokesperson for the Howard League. "It is inhumane and degrading to house prisoners without proper access to toilets. Prisoners urinating in the sink used for washing food containers is clearly unhygenic. And on top of this there are obvious issues of a lack of privacy, and dignity for prisoners. There is no excuse for this. It's bleedingly obvious that people in prison need access to a toilet."

It appears that the situation may have been caused by insufficient staffing at the prison. The information that the Howard League has received indicates that the issue has arisen because there are rarely Corrections officers in the day room available to take prisoners to the toilet.

This revelation comes only days after the Ombudsman released his report into Auckland South Corrections Facility (ASCF) which stated that ASCF "had been running exceptional periods of extended lock[down] ... primarily due to staff absences and gaps on the roster" (p. 45). The Ombudsman stated that he is "concerned that prisoners ... did not have sufficient time out of their cells to promote mental wellbeing" (p. 45).



The situation at Auckland Prison suggests that the negative impact of insufficient staffing levels at prisons is not limited to ASCF. This appears to be another instance where New Zealand's embarrasingly high incarceration rate, and the overcrowding of prisons is adversely affecting the basic human rights and well-being of prisoners in New Zealand. In the short term prison staffing needs to ensure people in prisons are being treated with respect and humanely; not having their human rights violated. This is an issue for this year's well-being budget. Ultimately though if the problems of prisons are to be addressed all political parties must commit to evidence-based justice policies. As Bill English once put it: prisons are a moral and fiscal failure. Politicans need to face up to this fact.


ADDITIONAL NOTES
New Zealand has one of the highest incarceration rates in the OCED. We imprison 214 people per 100,000 of our population. This contrasts Australia (172), UK (England and Wales (139), Canada (114), Switzerland (81), the Netherlands (61), Iceland (37). These incarceration rates were obtained from the World Prison Brief website http://prisonstudies.org/highest-to-lowest/prison_population_rate?field_region_taxonomy_tid=All
The Corrections Act requires that prisons are administered in a humane manner (s5(1)).
The United Nations Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners states that "All prisoners shall be treated with respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings" (Principle 1).
The criteria that the Ombudman uses when monitoring NZ prisons include that prisons provide "a clean and decent environment ... [where] Each prisoner has ... good access to toilets and washing facilities," and that prisoners have a "right to privacy." (These criteria are included in the ASCF report on pp. 24, 31).
The Ombudsman report into Auckland South Corrections Facility can be found at: http://www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/ckeditor_assets/attachments/721/Final_OPCAT_Prison_Report_-_ASCF_-_PDF_online_.pdf

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