A Bill to improve prison security and ensure the fair, safe, and humane treatment of people in prison while upholding public safety has passed its third reading.
Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says the Corrections Amendment Bill makes a number of changes to ensure the Corrections Act 2004 is fit for purpose.
“The updated legislation enhances the safety of prisoners, victims and staff, while ensuring Corrections can manage people in prison humanely and in line with their individual needs,” Kelvin Davis said.
“During the Committee of the Whole House, I tabled a Supplementary Order Paper that made a number of changes, including strengthening prison mail laws.
“This puts Corrections in a much stronger position to stop prisoners sending mail that attempts to radicalise or influence others, promotes violence or hostility against our community, or re-victimises those who have already been hurt.
“We have added an explicit provision that allows for the withholding of prison mail that promotes or encourages hostility towards any group of people on the grounds set out in section 21 of the Human Rights Act,” Kelvin Davis said.
The Bill originally included a provision enabling Corrections to access and operate spare capacity within a Police jail in periods of extreme accommodation pressure. This provision has been removed.
“Despite the prison population peaking at 10,800 in March 2018, our work to make the system more effective has helped safely reduce this to around 10,000. This, along with accommodation builds underway, has significantly decreased the likelihood that Police jails will be needed in future,” Kelvin Davis said.
“The legislation also supports the work happening through Hōkai Rangi – Corrections’ new strategy to break the cycle of reoffending and imprisonment.
“We are introducing a new framework for the management and care of people vulnerable to self-harm. This will humanise the experience for people in prison, and those with mental health issues will be treated with dignity and respect.
“We are improving the ‘Mothers with Babies’ regime. Mothers in prison will have the statutory right to appeal if their request to have a child placed in their custody is declined, meaning they will have a greater understanding of the opportunities available to have decisions about the placement of their children reconsidered,” Kelvin Davis said.
Further changes include:
- Making it a disciplinary offence for a person in prison to tattoo another person, give consent to receive a prison tattoo, or tattoo themselves.
- Amending the definition of a drug to align with the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013 so people in prison can be tested for a wider range of drugs, including synthetic cannabis, and be charged with a disciplinary offence in the event of a positive test.
- Allowing for the use of imaging technology like body scanners to more effectively detect contraband, including drugs and weapons, and reduce reliance on rub-down or strip searches.
- Removing the mandatory requirement to strip search those who have returned to prison from an escorted outing.
“These changes are about making sure the legislation is fit for purpose and that our corrections system upholds the safety and wellbeing of victims, staff and people in prison,” Kelvin Davis said.