Corrections Minister Must Correct The Failings Of NZ Prisons

Yesterday, the Office of the Ombudsman released
two new reports
following inspections at Christchurch
Women’s Prison and Wellington’s Arohata Prison. Amnesty
International Aotearoa New Zealand and justice advocacy
group JustSpeak are dismayed by the findings of these
reports and are calling on the Minister of Corrections
Kelvin Davis to lead a process of transformational
change.

“Aotearoa New Zealand needs a justice system
that actually works to reduce crime, that upholds Te Tiriti
o Waitangi, and that enables everyone to live well in their
community. But our current justice system is risking serious
harm by failing to live up to human rights standards. These
new reports underscore the severity of this harm,” said Lisa
Woods, Campaigns Director at Amnesty International Aotearoa
New Zealand.

“Over and over again, our prisons are
failing to treat the people in their care with dignity. As
humans, this is something we all need. Of course, protecting
well being in prison also better equips people to
reintegrate with their communities, which in turn helps
society to flourish in the ways we all want to see,” said
Aphiphany Forward-Taua, Executive Director of
JustSpeak.

“Clearly our country’s justice system
must be fundamentally transformed, not just tweaked at the
edges,” said Forward-Taua.

Stop the use of spit
hoods

JustSpeak and Amnesty International Aotearoa
New Zealand made a joint
submission to the UN Committee against Torture
ahead of
Aotearoa New Zealand’s 2023 review, which took place last
week. Ending the use of spit hoods on young people was among
the many issues raised in this submission, and was also
raised as an issue by the Committee while questioning the NZ
delegation.

Together with the Chief Ombudsman, Amnesty
International Aotearoa New Zealand and JustSpeak are calling
on the Government to immediately stop the use of spit hoods
on young people.

“The Ombudsman and the Committee
against Torture have both highlighted many of the shocking
ways in which the New Zealand Government is failing to
protect the wellbeing of people in prisons and youth justice
facilities. This only serves to feed the cycle of crime that
ultimately harms all of society,” said
Forward-Taua.

“Spit hoods pose a serious risk and the
Government must find alternative solutions to keep staff
safe,” said Woods.

Overhaul the monitoring and
reporting systems

Among the various issues raised in
the latest reports from the Ombudsman are the ongoing
failings of the prison system to effectively monitor and
report on human rights issues, such as the use of force
against people in prison. The reports found a range of
issues with the way in which the use of force was recorded,
including missing documentation, substandard reporting and a
lack of detail on how unjustified force was
addressed.

“Monitoring the use of force against people
in prison is essential for ensuring that our Government is
acting in line with human rights standards and minimising
the risk of harm. Our role as human rights watchdog is
crucial for transparency and accountability, but it’s
particularly difficult when the issues we are trying to
watch are being so poorly recorded by the Government,” said
Woods.

“The Department of Corrections has failed to
treat people with basic dignity by adequately recording
their treatment in prison. The Minister of Corrections
Kelvin Davis must take responsibility for this repeated
failure of accountability,” said
Forward-Taua.

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