Wellington Scoop

Violence and gang activity continuing at Rimutaka Prison – report

Report from RNZ
A report into Rimutaka Prison shows violence and gang activity is continuing and prisoners’ access to healthcare is getting worse.

The report is from the Office of the Inspectorate, an independent arm of the Department of Corrections, which made an unannounced inspection in October to follow recommendations made in 2017.

Rimutaka Prison is also the subject of a police investigation into possible corruption.

The report says that violence, gang activity and standovers continue to occur in most of the high security units. It says the regime brought in to manage this had resulted in prisoners spending less time out of their cells. High security prisoners spoken to during the inspection said they were frustrated by the limited time, and tensions existed in the units.

More than 50 percent of the Rimutaka prison population identify as gang members and more than 64 percent of them, about 350 prisoners, were kept in the high security units.

“In the six months to 31 September 2019, there were 69 recorded prisoner-on-prisoner assaults. Of those, 59 occurred in the high security units. During the same period, 26 prisoner-on-staff assaults were recorded.”

The report also said prisoners’ access to health was poorer than in 2017.

“At the time of our unannounced inspection, wait times for non-urgent medical officer appointments were more than two weeks and for the dentist between four and six weeks.”

Delays were attributed to the unavailability of custodial support to facilitate prisoner movements.

It said inadequate and unsuitable health facilities were also impacting on the ability of staff to provide appropriate health care.

Corrections’ chief prison inspector Janis Adair said there have been some positive changes.

“[There’s] a more consistent induction process, better prisoner access to telephone calls with their lawyer, lower contraband levels and improved meals.

“Prisoners in low security units reported they felt safe from bullying, violence and standovers.”

Adair said there also continued to be a broad range of education programmes available.

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