National | Department of Corrections

Chief Ombudsman to investigate prisons department over living conditions

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has launched an investigation into the Department of Corrections' response to repeated calls for reforms aimed at improving conditions for prisoners.

"In many areas, I have not seen significant and sustained improvements to prisoners’ welfare and rehabilitation," Boshier says.

"This is despite concerns about conditions being raised by me and others at different levels of the department, and report after report being released calling for change.

"I simply want to know why."

Mr Boshier's investigation says it will be independent, wide-ranging, and he expects it will take a year to complete. He notified Corrections chief executive Jeremy Lightfoot last week.

"I want to find out why problems continue to exist across the whole prison network and how the department is genuinely taking action to address these."

"I have become increasingly concerned about seeing the same issues coming up time and time again," he says.

"I now need to determine if there are any system-wide issues in the department that may be preventing it from making changes that I and other oversight agencies have been calling for."

What's inside the investigation

The Chief Ombudsman will be looking at what the department has done to effectively address:

  • the treatment and conditions of people held in all correctional facilities;
  • opportunities for constructive activity, such as education, employment, rehabilitation and reintegration programmes; and
  • performance monitoring and review processes, such as complaints management, oversight of segregation orders, use of force reviews, and other operational or incident reviews.

The Chief Ombudsman will consider these issues through the lens of the department’s Te Tiriti o Waitangi and its stewardship obligations.

The investigation’s areas of focus may be adjusted or refined as more information becomes available over time.

The investigation is expected to be completed by mid to late 2022, depending on what is found. It is currently at the initial planning stage.