The Office of the Ombudsman says it is putting the Department of Corrections under closer scrutiny following release of the department's report into organised fighting and access to contraband at Mt Eden Corrections facility.
It says a programme of proactively monitoring how prisoners are treated is already underway and will include Mt Eden Corrections Facility.
Additional resourcing from Parliament in 2015 has enabled the Office to expand its inspections team from one to three members and to utilise contractors. Monitoring can be in the form of formal inspections or unannounced visits and the Office's inspectors will have access to all prisoners during their inspections and visits.
"It is a fundamental tenet of democracy that prisoners should be detained in humane conditions, appropriately supervised and treated fairly and in a manner consistent with their legal rights," says Chief Ombudsman Judge Peter Boshier.
"The health and safety of detainees is a matter of immense importance. I consider the inspection and monitoring process under Crimes of Torture Act to be the most effective way in which I can satisfy myself that all appropriate safeguards are in place, and are working properly in all prisons."
As a National Preventive Mechanism under the Crimes of Torture Act – which fulfils New Zealand's responsibilities under the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture – Ombudsmen monitor and inspect places of detention, including prisons. The purpose of monitoring is to ensure against the possibility of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment occurring.