Alarming report uncovers several faults at Waikeria Prison

  • 03/05/2018
A wire prison fence.
A wire prison fence. Photo credit: Newshub.

A new report into conditions at Waikeria Prison has found several faults - including long lock-up times, understaffing and a lack of a fence.

Each individual unit at the prison is fenced, but the overall site is not - which the report by the Office of the Inspectorate says makes security at the prison challenging and resource-intensive.

The prison was inspected between July 31 and August 4, 2017, and 28 prisoners were interviewed about their experiences in the prison.

Prisoners in the at-risk unit were found to have spent up to 22 hours of a day locked in their cells with little to engage them, and up to 26 hours at a time between their cell being unlocked.

One prisoner mentioned they had become fixated on self-harm during their time in the unit due to the lack of other activities to engage their mind.

Staffing levels at the prison were also low, and when staff from the inspectorate visited, many staff were still being trained and could not be rostered on to full hours.

According to the report at the time of the visit, 17 percent of principal corrections officers' positions and 35 percent of senior corrections officers positions were vacant or being filled by other staff. Thirty-seven officers were still completing their training.

Facilities at the prison were also shabby, with moss growing on pavements, graffiti and scorch marks in the prison yard - indicating prisoners had access to tools that could create fire.

Corrections says most of the issues raised in the report have been resolved in the time since it was conducted, despite challenging circumstances.

Of the 42 issues raised, Corrections claims 30 have been resolved and 12 have been partially resolved.

"We are committed to ensuring we are meeting accepted international standards of safety, human dignity, rehabilitation and reintegration needs within prisons," said chief custodial officer Neil Beales.

"This independent role of the Chief Inspector will ensure those standards are maintained and improved on, wherever possible."