Kia Whaitake | Making a Difference: Investigation into Ara Poutama Aotearoa | Department of Corrections
Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier released Kia Whaitake | Making a Difference following his self-initiated investigation into how Ara Poutama Aotearoa | the Department of Corrections has responded to repeated calls for improvements in the way prisoners are treated.
Excerpt from the summary
The Chief Ombudsman was concerned about the same issues coming up time and time again in prisons. These include people in prison:
- not having enough time out of their cells (also known as ‘unlock’ hours);
- not getting their meals and medication at appropriate times;
- being video recorded when using toilets and showers;
- not being able to exercise in open air; not having clean bedding; and not having contact with their family, whānau, and visitors; and
- not being able to spend their time in prison engaged in activities, programmes or services they need for their release from prison.
The Department has, over the years, accepted most of the recommendations made by oversight agencies about these issues. But the Chief Ombudsman was concerned that the Department had not made all of the changes, or that it was too slow.
Prior to the start of his investigation, a riot destroyed the top jail of Waikeria Prison in Waikato. Both the Department’s own Inspectorate and the Chief Ombudsman had previously found problems with the conditions of the top jail and identified improvements needed. After the riot, there were calls for an independent review by the Ombudsman.
The Chief Ombudsman started this investigation to find out whether there are deeper issues affecting the Department’s ability to make the changes that his office and other oversight agencies have been calling for.
How the investigation was carried out
The Chief Ombudsman’s investigation involved speaking with and gathering information from a wide range of people. This included:
- people with lived experience of prison;
- current and previous employees of the Department (including previous senior leaders);
- representatives from Māori organisations;
- organisations that support people in prison and their whānau, or with an interest in prison reform;
- unions representing the interests of prison staff; and
- other oversight agencies.
The Chief Ombudsman’s investigators visited seven prisons and the Department’s training centre.
The Chief Ombudsman sought advice from a panel of experts.
The Chief Ombudsman also considered the Department’s stewardship duties as well as the obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi │ Treaty of Waitangi. As a steward, the Department is responsible for looking after the corrections system.