Reports of prisoner abuse show need for prisons rethink and independent oversight

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

Reports of an asthmatic woman being bombed in her cell with pepper spray, being forced to lie face down on the ground to be fed, and having to show used sanitary items to guards to receive more, shows obscene human rights violations that need addressing, Green Party Corrections and Human Rights spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman said today.

“The integrity of our justice system depends on upholding basic human rights and helping those convicted of offending to be rehabilitated and reintegrated successfully into our communities. Abuse in our places of detention absolutely undermines this and is unacceptable.

“We have to ask ourselves the question – are prisons working as they should? We already know that the majority of those we imprison already suffer mental illness, brain injury, are from poorer communities, and disproportionately are Māori or Pasifika. Time and again we’ve seen that prisons are not fit for purpose, and people leave them worse off, more traumatised, and more likely to reoffend when they leave. Entire communities are suffering the consequences.

“Prisons should not be a place you go to be tortured. Why on earth are women having to lie face down next to a toilet to receive food? Reports of this show shameful levels of deprivation. What is clear is a massive rethink of our system is required. We must draw upon the extensive research and inquiries that offer alternatives to the failed system of imprisonment.

“In the immediate term, we must establish an Independent Prison Inspectorate. The Inspectorate would take over all the functions currently carried out by the Department of Corrections’ internal complaints process and the role of inspectors of corrections. The Greens reinstated calls for this in 2016, when there were allegations of prisoner abuse.

“Corrections, who are in charge of looking after troubled New Zealanders in often difficult and terse circumstances, behind closed doors, should not be self-regulating and self-evaluating. That is how we get to the point where women are being continually pepper sprayed in small confined spaces because they will not do as they’re told.

“It is time to ensure transparency, accountability and oversight to Corrections, so that human rights are not continually violated”.

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