A prisoner was held in a waist restraint with his hands cuffed behind his back for 21 hours a day after a mental health team would not treat him, a prison reform campaigner says.
Roger Brooking said he was informed the Otago Corrections Facility prisoner was held in restrictive restraints after Dunedin's forensic mental health team would not treat him as "he did not have a serious mental health disorder".
The campaigner - who has fought for prisoners' rights, increased access to health services and sector reform - said the man's behaviour was consistent with borderline personality disorder, an illness Corrections was ill-equipped to deal with under current legislation.
The Department of Corrections confirmed, in a report released last week, the man was held in a waist restraint and handcuffs after nine instances of self-harm.
The Otago Daily Times understands the man caused serious injuries to himself and attempted to tear out his stitches after being treated at hospital.
Corrections and the Southern District Health Board did not grant the Otago Daily Times interviews with staff involved in the man's treatment or directly address claims about his care.
In an emailed statement, SDHB mental health, addictions and intellectual disability directorate medical director Dr Brad Strong said the SDHB was "involved and actively collaborate[s] with Corrections health services to oversee the care of prisoners at OCF".
"While we cannot comment on any particular case due to issues of health privacy, the public can rest-assured that all prisoners who express or demonstrate mental disorder or distress receive an assessment and collaborative engagement by the forensic mental health team," he said.
Corrections did not directly respond to questions about the man's diagnosis or whether he was turned away from forensic mental health treatment, instead reiterating a statement from last week.
"The department manages prisoners whose behaviour poses serious safety risks to themselves and others," the statement said.
"The prisoner who is referred to in the COTA [Crimes of Torture Act] report had carried out nine self-harm attempts and had been admitted to hospital on several occasions with injuries as a result of these attempts. The prison director sought multidisciplinary advice on how to manage this prisoner safely and humanely. This included consultation with the Southern District Health Board's mental health team. A carefully considered management plan for this prisoner was created and this included restricted use of waist restraints."
Brooking said the case was a clear example of the shortcomings in the department's handling of mentally ill patients.
"All they are trying to do is keep him alive. They aren't trying to give him treatment," Brooking said.
"I understand why they did [place him in a waist restraint and handcuffs] because they wanted to keep the guy alive but the fact that they had to do that shows the DHB did nothing."
Specific and effective treatment, called dialectical behaviour therapy, was available to patients with the man's illness, he said.
However, Corrections could not adequately provide the man with the help he needed.
"You can't do dialectical behavioural therapy with someone with a waist restraint on and his hands behind his back,," he said.
"All in all, this case is a glaring illustration of the woefully inadequate mental health treatment available to prisoners."
Corrections said any further information on the man's treatment would be handled under the Official Information Act because of the "complexity" of the Otago Daily Times' queries.