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Strategy To Improve Outcomes For Women In Prison

A new strategy developed together with women who have had direct experience with the justice system will help guide Corrections in improving the treatment of women in prison.

The strategy - Wāhine - E rere ana ki te pae hou - will set a new direction for Corrections in its management of women prisoners and ensure they are treated in a way that fulfils the Government’s aims around reforming the justice sector.

It follows several concerning incidents at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility (ARWCF) that led to a directive to Corrections to overhaul its management of women in prison.

“Clearly there were some serious failings around the treatment of three women at the prison in Auckland, which have again been highlighted in a report released today by the independent Corrections Inspectorate,” Kelvin Davis said.

“That is why earlier this year I immediately told Corrections it urgently needed to do better and I’m pleased with the strategy developed and changes made so far.”

In developing the strategy, Corrections consulted with a range of mostly wāhine Māori, including women with experience of the justice system. Whānau, service providers, staff and iwi were also part of the work.

While women make up just six per cent of the total prison population in New Zealand, they have unique needs while being managed in prison.

“The current prison system is male-focused, a one-size-fits-all approach,” Kelvin Davis said.

“Many women in prison have had extremely complex pasts, often being the victims of violence and abuse themselves. We need to make sure we are giving them the best opportunity to rehabilitate their lives while keeping the community safe.”

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Alongside the new strategy, changes have been made at ARWCF to make sure similar incidents do not happen again. They include moves to address staffing pressures and the appointment of a permanent prison manager, a $12 million programme of work to establish additional recreation yards and a trauma-informed approach to practice at the prison.

Across the wider women’s prison network a number of initiatives including the Mana Wāhine Pathway programme and the introduction of wāhine panels at each site giving women another way to voice their opinion and suggest changes have been introduced.

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