All prison officers to have access to pepper spray

File photo / Glenn Taylor
File photo / Glenn Taylor

Officers in all New Zealand prisons are to have access to pepper spray, Corrections Minister Anne Tolley has announced.

The decision follows a 12-month trial in 2011 which the Government said found pepper spray to be an effective tactical option and deterrent, reducing the risk of injury to both staff and prisoners in some potentially violent situations.

Officers will not routinely carry pepper spray on their belts, due to the risk of prisoners assaulting staff and stealing the spray, which could then be used against officers and other prisoners.

"The number of serious assaults on prison staff has fallen dramatically, down 75 per cent over the last fifteen years," Mrs Tolley said.

"However, we are continually looking at ways to improve safety for frontline staff, who have to deal with dangerous and violent individuals."

Mrs Tolley said all prison staff will now be trained in the "tactical use of pepper spray, while the strict regulations surrounding its use will be streamlined for quicker approval".

"It should also be noted that the majority of staff and all prison managers interviewed during the trial were opposed to pepper spray being carried on officers' belts."

The trial took place in ten prisons, with pepper spray being deployed once and approved for use, but not implemented, on three other occasions.

"Pepper spray is another important tool for Corrections officers," Mrs Tolley said.

"The National-led Government has already improved conditions for staff by introducing stab-resistant vests, batons and spit-hoods for those working in high-risk situations, and alongside training in de-escalation techniques this is making our prisons safer."

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