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Prisons generally operating well say Inspectorate reports

Corrections acknowledges the release of the reports into Otago Corrections Facility, Rimutaka Prison and Auckland South Corrections Facility, completed by Corrections’ independent inspectorate.

While the reports identified areas the Inspector believed needed consideration, in general they found that prisoners and staff were well engaged and every effort was made to ensure prisoner needs were met at the three facilities.

In particular, the Inspectorate said of Otago Corrections Facility that they found a prison working effectively, was secure, clean, well maintained, was safe with vigilant staff and relatively few issues with violence or intimidation among prisoners.

The three reports were completed during a period of a growing prison population and highlighted issues related to the burgeoning prison numbers and its effect on high security prisoners accessing rehabilitation programmes.

Corrections Chief Custodial Officer Neil Beales says things have eased since that time.

“The prison population peaked at just over 10,800 in March 2018 but has been reducing since and nationally is currently around 10,000. This is around 1,500 prisoners below the 2017 Justice Sector Forecast. As the population eases, this allows our staff to spend more time ensuring the prison environment is a safe one and that prisoners who are eligible for rehabilitation programmes are able to access them.”

The report also commented on improvements required in assessing prisoners for appropriate cell sharing.

“Rimutaka has implemented regular monitoring of these assessments and has placed an increased focus on achieving full compliance with the SACRA process. Otago was found to have good processes for receiving prisoners and only once instance was found where the required assessment for cell sharing was not completed,” said Mr Beales.

The Shared Accommodation Cell Risk Assessment (SACRA) process has been a focus for the sites for some months and improvement has been noted in the timely completion of these assessments.”

“While it is accepted that double bunking creates challenges for sites, growth in the national prison population required that double bunking occur. A lift in staff numbers, to address the additional workload, has helped.”

The report identifies that there are unrealistic demands on the Health Centre Manager at Rimutaka Prison, who is directly responsible for a very large team.

“Since the draft report was provided, Rimutaka has appointed a second Health Centre Manager to alleviate the pressure. A satellite health unit has been added and is currently partially operational with further work to be done in this area,” said Mr Beales.

Corrections will continue to monitor progress made by the site to address the findings of the inspection report. This progress will be shared with the Office of the Inspectorate.

Corrections has a contract with SecureFuture for the operation of Auckland South Corrections Facility, which opened in 2015. SecureFuture subcontracts Serco to operate the prison.

The Department has Prison Monitors based at ASCF who provide assurance over the operations of the prison. Their monitoring includes inspections against contractual and legislative requirements and international prison standards. They also ensure that the site is operating as a safe and secure facility.

“Since the inspection Corrections has been working with ASCF to enhance performance. This has included provision of operational support from myself, the Regional Commissioner and custodial staff. We have taken on board the issues raised in this report and we will continue to closely monitor ASCF’s performance across all areas of operational and contractual requirements,” said Mr Beales.

“We are committed to ensuring all prisons in New Zealand protect the safety of the people in our care, staff, contractors and our communities. This is done by providing people with access to health and wellness services and every opportunity for change through participation in rehabilitation, education and employment.”

Read the media release from Office of the Inspectorate along with the full inspection report for Otago Corrections Facility, Rimutaka Prison and Auckland South Corrections Facility on their website.

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