Corrections dismisses hundreds of harassment complaints as 'reasonable'

They're tasked with keeping the community safe from our most dangerous offenders. But while Corrections monitors inmates, it's now being forced to keep a close eye on its own staff.

Newshub can reveal Corrections has received hundreds of complaints involving bullying and sexual harassment over the past five years.

They relate to matters between staff members, and are proportionately higher than other Ministries. It's now even started training officers to deal with sexual harassment. But is there a problem?

Corrections' national commissioner doesn't think so.

"I don't think we've got a problem," Rachel Leota says.

However union boss Alan Whitley - president of the Corrections Association - has a different point of view.

"Yes, they've definitely got a problem to deal with," he says.

Corrections employs around 9000 staff and since late 2013 it's dealt with 272 harassment complaints of a non-sexual nature and an additional 55 complaints of a sexual nature.

Compare that to other large government departments.

Figures reveal the number of complaints made in the last five years.
Figures reveal the number of complaints made in the last five years. Photo credit: Newshub.

Inland Revenue has 5500 staff and received 90 complaints, plus 19 of a sexual nature. MBIE provided records from the past three-and-a-half years, during which it received much fewer.

Mr Whitley says the numbers are too high and he was already concerned about issues around sexual harassment.

"Corrections has a number of issues in that area," he says.

"As a union we've bought a number of matters forward for them to investigate in the past on behalf of our members and we're going to continue to do so."

Corrections has told Newshub it believes the figures are "reasonable".

It says numbers might seem high as staff are now encouraged to complain if they are harassed.

"What we also strive to do is create a culture that people feel safe to come forward and speak up if they are feeling unsafe in their workplace, if they are subject to any bullying or harassment," Ms Leota says.

It says in the last year it's started a number of measures to ease any problem.

Corrections has now established what it calls the role of sexual harassment contact officers.

These staff are based at sites across the country to ensure other staff know the policies and procedures around sexual harassment.

The union is now calling for Corrections to work harder, and slow down the time it takes to investigate cases.

Corrections is urging any staff feeling bullied, or harassed, to come forward and complain.