Response from Corrections

  • 27/02/2016
Response from Corrections

Prisoners have not been allowed to smoke in New Zealand prisons since the smokefree policy was enforced on 1 July 2011. All smoking-related products, including tobacco and smoking accessories (e.g. pipes, cigarette papers, cigarette lighters and lighter fuel) are regarded as contraband and are banned from prisons.

Any person that comes into prison, whether they are a prisoner, visitor, volunteer or Corrections staff member must abide by prison rules. If someone is found to possess contraband, including tobacco, in prison, they are liable to be prosecuted under the Corrections Act 2004.

Corrections recognises that many prisoners struggle with smoking addiction and therefore may attempt to introduce tobacco or smoking related items into prisons. As these products are easy to obtain in the community, it is unsurprising that people will attempt to bring them in to prisons.

Prisoners can access a number of positive initiatives to help them adjust to the smokefree environment. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is offered to all prisoners free of charge. Prisoners also have access to the 0800 Quitline for further support.

Corrections demands a high standard of conduct and integrity from all employees, and as such, staff are expected to role model positive law-abiding behaviour. The overwhelming majority of our staff fulfil their duties with integrity and commitment in what is often a pressured and challenging environment. 

If staff don’t meet the standards required of them, including smuggling contraband into the prison, appropriate action is taken.

The use of cellphone communication by prisoners represents a serious risk to public safety. Considerable emphasis is placed on preventing cellphones from entering prisons, holding those to account who attempt to smuggle them in, and stamping out opportunities for organised crime. 

Cellphone-jamming technology is one component in our approach to managing the use of cellular communications by prisoners.

 Cellphone-jamming technology was progressively implemented in our prisons from 2007 through to 2010. The systems are designed to provide coverage to the designated prisoner accessible areas. The telecommunications industry is rapidly evolving and cellular technologies are constantly changing in response to consumer demand. We regularly engage with industry partners to ensure that we keep abreast of these changes.

We cannot comment on the specifics of our cellphone jamming technology for security purposes.

 Anecdotally, criminal activity conducted from within prisons has been reduced following the implementation of the technology. However, some prisoners still spend a great deal of time attempting to smuggle cellphones into prisons in the hope that they may circumvent the systems. As a result, we are constantly working to identify and mitigate risk areas in the physical and technological environment, and deploy new tools as they become available. These measures directly contribute toward our bottom line of improving public safety.

The extensive range of screening methods used by the Department outlined below, have contributed  toward Corrections’ goals of reducing re-offending and improving public safety and have had a significant impact in the increased number of cellphones that have been successfully removed from prisons over recent years.

Note to reporter:

Prisoners are constantly finding new ways of smuggling contraband into prisons and as such Corrections continues to find new ways to detect them. Corrections intelligence staff are continuously working to identify and mitigate risk areas in the physical environment and to stay informed about new methods of concealment.

The Department currently employs a range of screening methods to prevent contraband, including cellphones, tobacco and smoking-related products, from entering prisons.  These measures include:

All prisoners who have been found to have introduced contraband, including smoking-related items and cellphones, into a prison can be held to account for their actions through the internal misconduct system, or they can be prosecuted under the Act. What action is appropriate is decided by the Prison Director.

There are a number of factors that are considered when deciding whether to refer the matter to the Police. Examples include, but are not limited to, the number of times a prisoner has been disciplined for a similar matter, the prisoner’s compliance history and the need to discourage other prisoners from committing the same offence.

It is true that weapons are occasionally found inside prison, however we do not believe they are widespread. Staff undertake regular and random searches of the prisons for contraband. This includes weapons, as well as other contraband items. Staff are trained to search cells, prisoners and other areas of the prison.

Our staff work constantly to identify and mitigate risk areas in the prison’s physical environment and stay informed about new methods of concealment. Part of the challenge in a custodial environment is that seemingly innocent items such as toothbrushes, pens, spectacles, even parts of the fabric of the cell can be manipulated or used as a weapon.

All prisoners who have been found to have concealed contraband, including weapons, can be held to account for their actions through the internal misconduct system, or they can be prosecuted under the Corrections Act.

If any prisoner is aware of other prisoners having weapons we encourage them to inform prison staff. Having concealed weapons do not make prisons safer, in fact it’s quite the opposite.

Corrections officers will take action to any threats to a prisoner’s safety. If a prisoner has fears for their safety they can apply to be moved into another cell or segregation. If a prisoner is posing threats to other prisoners or staff safety they can be moved to segregation or managed in the prison’s management unit. 

As you are aware, we manage some of New Zealand’s most difficult and challenging citizens and violence is always a risk as many offenders resort to violent behaviour as a means of resolving issues and of expressing themselves. Prisoners can be volatile and unpredictable and many have long histories of antisocial behaviour.

The Department has a zero tolerance policy towards violence and will hold prisoners to account via the internal misconduct system when they do not comply with the rules and regulations.

 Corrections run prisons in New Zealand, not gang members.

We acknowledge that gangs are a problem in prison, as they are in society. Gang prevalence is an issue internationally and, like other jurisdictions, we take gang activity in prison very seriously.

When a gang member comes to prison they do not suddenly leave the gang or start behaving. We are working hard to reduce the influence of gangs in prison and getting ahead of organised gang activity.

Corrections has no tolerance for gangs and gang paraphernalia on Corrections property is forbidden.

If we become aware of gang members, or any other prisoners, attempting to control a unit or other prisoner, then appropriate action will be taken.

We have a large number of initiatives for all offenders, including those affiliated to gangs, to provide better work, education and rehabilitation opportunities. The Department also provides initiatives aimed at building protective factors including establishing or rebuilding family connections and strengthening cultural identity.

 It would be inappropriate for the Department to comment at this stage on Mr Taylor’s legal proceedings.

 According to Corrections’ data, Mr Taylor has nine convictions for escape from lawful custody (this may include escape from prison, police, court and borstal).

Prisoners who have escaped or attempted to escape have their security classification reviewed.  If convicted for the escape, they are usually sentenced to extra prison time.

Corrections does not comment on where individual prisoners are held or their security classifications.

Prisoners are held in maximum security only when necessary and when their behaviour warrants it.