New Zealand Law Society - Northland Regional Corrections policies criticised by Ombudsman

Northland Regional Corrections policies criticised by Ombudsman

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Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier says the Northland Regional Corrections Facility is persisting with policies that are preventing it from achieving its full potential.

Mr Boshier's comments come in a report tabled in Parliament on an unannounced inspection of the prison in February 2019.

He says the facility has changed focus. In 2013 high security prisoners were transfered out of the prison and it now houses prisoners with lower security classifications. Almost a quarter of the prison population is on remand awaiting trial.

“Yet many of the processes and practices were more suited to a high security setting and were impeding achievement of the Prison’s vision to develop a Kaupapa Māori based culture to support tāne to take their proper place in the community.”

Mr Boshier says population pressures and staff shortages have also served to limit progress.

“The unintended consequences of persisting with some practices had an adverse impact on the treatment of prisoners.”

Mr Boshier says one example was an instruction that cell doors were locked while prisoners were exercising in the compound to reduce prisoner-on-prisoner assaults.

“My Inspectors found that prisoners were resorting to urinating and, on occasion, defecating in the compound because of a lack of toilet facilities.”

Although 47% of the prison’s population was Māori, cultural provision was limited.

“Relationships between the Prison and iwi were fragile however, I am encouraged to learn of the willingness of all parties to overcome difficulties and provide a strong response to shared challenges.”

“My Inspectors observed generally positive interactions between staff and prisoners. Continuity of leadership, developing partnerships with iwi, and meeting performance standards consistently, will enable the Prison’s potential to be achieved.”

The Department of Corrections has accepted 28 of the Chief Ombudsman’s 31 recommendations.