Tag Archives: New Zealand

NZ: Prison staff could wear cameras to reduce assaults

This is the first I’ve heard of this idea – staff wearing cameras.  I’m not sure if that’s a good idea or not – after all, if you want to beef up camera footage, wouldn’t you just make sure that there were no blind spots in the units?  Today’s cameras are pretty high tech and can capture detail down to what an officer is writing in a log book.

Read more about increased security measures in New Zealand’s jails here.

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NZ: Government urged to protect transgender prisoners

From the article: “The University of Auckland’s Equal Justice Project has slammed Department of Corrections policy placing transgender women in men’s prisons, unless they have had access to full sex-change surgery.”

Read more here.

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NZ: Prison smoking ban ruled ‘unlawful’

According to the article, this is the second appeal – both successful – of New Zealand’s prison system’s attempt to restrict smoking.  In this latest judgment, the judge reportedly found that “forcing prisoners into nicotine withdrawal is not humane.”


“…sentences must not be administered more restrictively than is reasonably necessary to ensure the maintenance of the law and the safety of the public, corrections staff, and prisoners. Depriving prisoners of tobacco, an otherwise lawful substance, is too restrictive.”

The result?  The corrections system is still going to be smoke-free, but inmates reprimanded for breaching the ban could receive compensation.

Read more here.

I’ve got to say that I do not agree with this.  Ohio has banned tobacco in its prisons (for both inmates and staff) for several years now.  Prior to the ban, you would have non-smoking inmates complaining about the amount of smoke and the very real threat posed by secondhand smoke.  I have far more sympathy for those inmates than others who are purposefully engaging in self-injurious behavior via tobacco inhalation.

That’s not to say that the ban has not caused problems.  Despite the ban, tobacco continues to be smuggled into the prison like any contraband, but now inmates and staff can sell it for exorbitant black market prices.  Staff spend a large amount of time tracking down contraband that is otherwise legal on the street.  And inmates have said that nicotine withdrawal contributes to violence and/or that having tobacco reinstated would reduce violence.

I still think that the longterm healthcare costs incurred by tobacco use – which the state would have to pay – outweigh the desire to feed a nicotine addiction, which is both harmful and expensive.  Better for people to spend the time in prison kicking the habit for when they are released.

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NZ: Prison postcard costs tutor job

From the article: “Ms Hill sent the card to a prisoner while on an overseas trip, to ”assist that student in the learning process,” Authority member Paul Stapp outlined  in his decision.”

Hmm…truth or BS?  You decide.

Read more here.

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New Zealand: Prison boss defends inmate riot tactics

From the article: “Officers confronted by 29 rioting inmates at the Spring Hill prison would have been overwhelmed if they had tried to use pepper spray, Corrections Department chief executive Ray Smith says.”

So, what do you think was their better option?

Mr Smith said the prison officers who arrested the rioting inmates had “the tools that were best going to work”, including helmets, shields, stab-proof vests and batons.

No offense to the prison staff, but that is malarkey.  It is always more dangerous to use instruments that force an officer to get within arms’ length of a rioting inmate (or any person).  Batons and physical force always place officers and inmates at more risk.  The better option would have been non-lethal chemical munitions.  I don’t agree with the Corrections Association president’s comments in the article, but I do agree that officers should have ready access to chemical munitions – in this case, they were apparently locked away and inaccessible, so they might as well have not have had any at all.

Then again, hindsight is always 20/20 in critical incident management…

Read the article here.

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NZ: Greater transparency for prison system

From the article: “All 17 prisons are now measured on their performance against each other in a range of areas including security, assaults, drug tests and rehabilitation programmes. They are then categorised in four performance grades, with the resulting tables released quarterly.”

I am always interested in prison oversight and find the different methods to be fascinating.  The UK has an extensive prison inspectorate, which uses several teams of expert inspectors to evaluate a prison.  It then gives a rating (good, reasonably good, not reasonably good, or poor) in each of four areas (safety, purposeful activities, respect and dignity, and resettlement/reentry).  Unsurprisingly, I believe Australia has picked this method up and I know that Canada, which does not currently have an inspectorate (it has a large ombudsman office), is considering it.

NZ DOC’s website provides the following “three steps to determining a prison’s overall rating:”

  • At the first level key security measures like escapes and unnatural deaths will be checked. If any of these occur the prison will be classified as needing improvement, no matter how well it’s doing in the next two measures.
  • At the next level internal prison issues like the number of complaints, drug testing results, assaults etc are measured. If these are not up to standard the prison will be classified as needing improvement.
  • The third level measures some aspects of our ultimate goal of reducing re-offending, by increasing participation in programmes allowing prisoners to gain job skills and real jobs.

They then use rankings of “Exceptional, Exceeding, Effective, and Needs Improvement.”  You can see an example of their ranking of the prisons here.

To me, this seems like a good start, but perhaps too superficial.  There’s a big push in the US to have “data-driven” corrections – let’s boil everything down to a number, assign a weight, multiply, and boom, you have an effective evaluation of the prison.  Of course, it doesn’t really work like that.  You do need to use metrics (and I object to any prison inspection or evaluation system that is based purely on an inspector’s “feeling” about a prison), but prisons are complex and just looking at the numbers without further investigation often misses the contributing causes and connections between the numbers.  It also opens the door for the prison to manipulate the numbers in order to appear better or simply under-report.

Still, I’m all for public scrutiny and if this brings additional attention to important data such as assault rates, then that’s great.

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NZ: Solutions for trans prisoners needed

From the article: “The government is being urged to consider new options for transgender prisoners after a trans woman had her sentence in a men’s prison reduced because she’s at risk of being a target for other prisoners.”

According to the article, the inmate had been attacked earlier and locked herself/himself in her/his cell for 23 hours a day.

Read more here.

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New Zealand: Prison staff get access to pepper spray

According to the article, “all prison staff will now have access to pepper spray” in New Zealand, for which they are receiving training.

However, staff still feel that it is not enough, as they are only able to use the pepper spray after they have been attacked and after someone retrieves it from a locked area.

Read more here.

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New Zealand: Prison safety panel appointed

From the article: “Former police commissioner Howard Broad is to head an international panel that will advise the government on ways to improve the safety of prison staff…The panel will review the department’s safety action plan, oversee its implementation next year and recommend additions or improvements.”

Read more here.

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New Zealand: Prison guard lets gang member order pizza

From the article: “On Tuesday night a prison guard, who had been working at Rimutaka for less than a year, went to make a coffee while another guard who had seven years’ experience remained handcuffed to the gang member.  When the first guard returned, he found the gang member calling for pizza on the second guard’s cellphone.  The pizza duly arrived, along with a side of garlic bread, and the gang member gave the guards $50 cash each.”

When a new shift of officers came on the next day and didn’t do the same, he attacked them.

Read more here.

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