In his follow-up report into Christchurch Women’s Prison, the Chief Ombudsman says he is very concerned about the continuing use of cameras in toilet areas.
Peter Boshier also noted the fear of some prisoners of being moved several hundred kilometres away.
In the report, Mr Boshier notes that five of seven original recommendations have been fully or partially achieved.
The Ombudsman’s inspectors made an unannounced inspection of Christchurch Women’s Prison in December 2014. Their recommendations concerned the material conditions and treatment of inmates.
The unannounced follow-up inspection in November 2017 found the prison’s management cells had been brought up to standard, record keeping and laundry processes had improved, and privacy screens had been installed in the wings.
But concerns remained.
“We still have strong concerns about the use of cameras in the cell toilet areas, and the lack of privacy screens in those areas”, Mr Boshier said. “I acknowledge this is an issue across the prison system, and that Corrections is working to find possible solutions.”
Peter Boshier says at the follow-up inspection, inspectors found Christchurch Women’s Prison was clean and tidy, with a relaxed atmosphere and generally good relationships among staff and prisoners. There was a range of constructive activities available for low-security prisoners, and a job expo due to be held.
“Low-security prisoners did, however, express concern that they may be moved to Arohata Upper Prison, in the grounds of Rimutaka Prison in Trentham. Some other prisoners had already been transferred to Arohata Upper Prison due to muster pressures,” he said.
Women inmates were particularly concerned about being further separated from their families by being moved to a North Island Prison, which would greatly increase the expense and difficulty of family visits.
The Chief Ombudsman said prisoners and staff also expressed their concerns about proposals to introduce double-bunking in the prison’s self-care units.
“Each self-care unit at Christchurch Women’s is a small unit designed for four people”, he says. “Double-bunking in this case would mean eight women in a space designed for four. This isn’t the best way to prepare for their return to society.”
Read the follow-up inspection report on Christchurch Women’s Prison here.