The Department of Corrections have announced more plans to transfer people to other prisons around the country. Meanwhile, they are still continuing to run a lengthy recruitment campaign, people in prison do not have full access to their human rights including access to visitation from whānau, friends and lawyers, and limited or no access to rehabilitative or support programmes.
What we know
- Corrections have said that their staffing challenges are impacting their “ability to provide services within the prison environment, including rehabilitation programmes, training and education, visits, and unlock hours.”
- According to Corrections, Mt Eden Corrections Facility (MECF), Spring Hill Corrections Facility (SHCF) and Rimutaka Prison are their most affected sites.
Timeline of transfers
- Approx. 39 women moved from Arohata to either Christchurch Women’s Prison or Auckland Regional Women’s Corrections Facility
- Unknown number of high security sentenced prisoners from Spring Hill Corrections Facility moved to Auckland South Corrections Facility
- Unknown number of low security sentenced prisoners (accommodated in high security cells) from Auckland South Corrections Facility moved to Spring Hill Corrections Facility.
- 70 Remand-accused prisoners from Spring Hill Corrections Facility to Rimutaka Prison and Hawkes’ Bay Regional Prison
- Around 60 sentenced men will move from Rimutaka Prison to Auckland South Corrections Facility
- Around 75 men on remand to be moved from Mt Eden Corrections Facility to Rimutaka Prison.
- Around 15 prisoners will move from Mt Eden Corrections Facility to Northland Region Corrections Facility
What Corrections are offering impacted people:
- Offered the opportunity to call whānau on their approved contact list to inform them of their move to another facility.
- Told they may be eligible to apply for assistance from the Child Travel Fund if they have a child visiting a parent in prison or if they are a parent travelling to visit a child under 18 years of age in prison. This fund is administered through local Prisoners' Aid and Rehabilitation Society (PARS) and Salvation Army offices NOT Corrections.
What we would like to see happen?
Corrections staff shortages indicate to us an opportunity for them and other key decision makers e.g. the Courts/Parole Board to work together to assess who of our current prison population should/could be released immediately. These actions should be taken to ameliorate the current staffing issues they are experiencing, reduce our prison population, and will help staff to prisoner ratios so that face-to-face visitation can be reinstated fully. The following groups of people are who the Department of Corrections ought to be looking to release ASAP are:
- People who are held in custody for no reason other than that they have no bail address because they cannot remember a phone number off the top of their head and therefore cannot contact the relevant loved ones who can provide a safe place for them to stay while on bail. (These people should be allowed to have as many phone calls as they need, and should be given access to their mobile phone directory or other local directory in order to secure a bail address, as well as support from staff to do this if needed.)
- People on remand awaiting trial or other court hearing who have not yet been convicted of a crime.
- People who are currently engaging in work to release programs or some other type of pre-release programs which allow them to come and go from the prison unsupervised. If they have been recognized as being no risk to the community to this extent, there is no valid reason for them to remain in prison.
- Anybody who is not facing charges which are seriously violent in nature involving vulnerable victims.
- People facing charges or convicted of recidivist low-level property, dishonesty or drug related offending.
- People who have been identified by a psychologist, psychiatrist or otherwise as being low risk in regards to causing physical harm to others or their community.
- People who have been identified as having significant substance abuse issues which have been the primary motivator in their criminal offending.
- People who have been identified as having some other type of treatable cognitive disorder which may have contributed to their offending such as addiction, ADHD, PTSD, fetal alcohol syndrome, bipolar disorder etc.,
- Vulnerable young adults, youth, and children.
The reason we have identified the following groups of people as eligible for release are based on the fact that they fit into one or more of the following three categories.
- They pose no immediate risk to the public.
- They have a mental illness or cognitive disorder that would be better treated in some other type of facility (AoD rehab centre, clean and sober housing, mental health facility, Alcohol or Other Drug Treatment Court (AODTC)), referral to an area of counselling/therapy relevant specifically to their type of trauma or disorder, or in the care of their whānau/community with their unique support systems.
- They have yet to be found guilty/convicted of a crime.
If the Department of Corrections were to begin releasing people belonging to the groups listed above, the prison population would decrease significantly. This would allow those individuals who at this point in time have no choice but to remain in prison, to be able to have face-to-face visits with their whānau and loved ones.
What about Oranga Tamariki?
We are currently confirming what their current policies are in regards to COVID-19 after hearing there is a possibility that some (or all?) Youth Justice facilities have confirmed that their COVID restriction policy will stay imposed on them for another year or two. This means that youth can be kept in their cells for extended and prolonged periods of time with limited “out of cell” time which will negatively impact their mental wellbeing.
We have actioned an OIA and Written questions regarding Youth Justice/Care and Protection facilities
How can you help?
- Continue to apply pressure to the Government and Ministers responsible for Corrections and human rights.
- Support our call to action for the release of identified groups by sharing this update or our Instagram post
- Let us know if you are hearing from impacted whānau, friends or lawyers. We welcome anyone who wants to use our platform to raise their voice by sharing their experiences.