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Corrections Acknowledges Complaints Process Dysfunctional In Waikeria

At a press conference tonight Corrections Chief Executive Jeremy Lightfoot acknowledged that successive Ombudsman reports found prisoners did not have access to the complaints process. Prison abolitionist group People Against Prisons Aotearoa, who have been supporting the whānau of protesters, says that this shows prisoners have been ignored.

“Lightfoot’s comments just reinforce that Corrections is responsible for perpetuating unsafe and unhygienic conditions inside,” says People Against Prisons Aotearoa spokesperson Emilie Rākete. “Protesters communicated to us that conditions in the top jail were disgusting. These claims are corroborated by years of Ombudsman reports. For years prisoners have been trying to have their living conditions in Waikeria improved, and Corrections has utterly failed to make any improvements.”

Minister of Corrections Kelvin Davis argued that the Department’s Hōkai Rangi strategy would improve conditions, but Rākete says more promises just aren’t good enough.

“Māori are tired of being told things will get better soon. We want meaningful change, and meaningful change that we can see. Davis has offered us nothing but platitudes. So-called “kaupapa Māori prisons” have already been tried at Ngāwha, a prison built on wāhi tapu against the protests of mana whenua, and which was recently found to be forcing prisoners to defecate in exercise yards. Māori have been brutalised by years of declining prison conditions, and the Waikeria Uprising was only the most recent expression of our disgust at our treatment.”

Corrections has announced two separate investigations into the causes of the uprising, but People Against Prisons Aotearoa says this is unnecessary.

“Lightfoot, Davis, and the entire Department have years of reports already lying around their offices outlining in black and white how they are abusing and torturing prisoners. The most recent Ombudsman report into Waikeria concluded that the top jail unit, which the uprising burned down, was unfit for human habitation. We don’t need any more reports, we need change. If Corrections cannot make change then, as we have seen, we will make it for them.”

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