Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has pushed back at a damming report - sparked by the 2021 Waikeria Prison Riots - released by the Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier.
Boshier yesterday called on Corrections to urgently fix workplace culture and leadership issues that are holding the organisation back from implementing lasting and meaningful change.
Boshier’s report, Kia Whaitake-Making a Difference, has followed calls from many sectors for improvements in the way prisoners are treated.
“I was also surprised to find during my investigation that prisoners’ rights were not at the heart of decisions made at every level of the organisation,” Boshier said.
But Davis said some of the comments made by the Chief Ombudsman were unfair.
“Since 2017, Corrections has received from all the monitoring groups close to 3000 recommendations of which over 80 per cent have been completed, the ones they haven’t completed they’re still working on.
“So I just want to push back on any sort of notion that Corrections has ignored the recommendations that these groups have made,” Davis said on WaateaNews.com.
Boshier said he accepted changes were being made but they were not happening fast enough and the inmates were collateral damage.
“I accept that the department is attempting to overhaul its approach but progress has been too slow and the fair treatment and rights of prisoners have, unfortunately, been the collateral damage,” Boshier said.
Boshier’s investigation was sparked by the 2020-2021 Christmas-New Year riots at Waikeria Prison.
Recently appointed MP and Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi was granted access inside Waikeria Prison to help end the four-day standoff.
Sixteen inmates were holed up in what’s known as the ‘top jail’, a unit built in 1911 the group have destroyed by lighting fires, which still burn, and had a raft of complaints, which included drinking dirty brown water and being fed in their cells with toilets close by.
The Ombudsman said Corrections staff lacked cultural competency and capability across the department to work in partnership with Māori.
He is recommending that the Corrections Act 2004 and the Corrections Regulations 2005 are reviewed to make sure Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act and relevant international human rights obligations such as the Mandela Rules, are given greater emphasis.
Additional reporting WaateaNews.com