Otago prison 'working effectively' despite shortcomings

The Otago Corrections Facility near Milton. Photo: ODT files
The Otago Corrections Facility near Milton. Photo: ODT files
A review of the Otago Corrections Facility shows it is “working effectively”, Corrections say, but the report highlights a range of shortcomings.

The 33-page analysis, released this morning, found the Milburn prison in South Otago was running at close to capacity and “it was sometimes difficult to find appropriate accommodation for all prisoners”.

Through the inspection, undertaken in March 2018, a Corrections team of six noted the influx of prisoners transferred from outside the region brought serious challenges.

“The prison faced challenges in accommodating all prisoners while keeping different classifications and categories of prisoners apart.

"The transfers interrupted rehabilitation and treatment programmes, cut off some prisoners from contact with families, and made high security units more challenging to manage,” the review said.

Inmates in the High-Security Unit “were generally kept safe from violence and intimidation, although there was some evidence of intimidation and gang-related tensions”, it said.

The inspection found those prisoners had very little time out of their cells, ranging from two to five hours a day.

Corrections chief inspector Janis Adair said that in two blocks, prisoners had “very few opportunities to engage in constructive out of cell activities such as rehabilitation programmes and training courses”.

The assessment of OCF’s operation was completed over a week and involved the team speaking to 35 prisoners across a range of units.

They also spoke to staff of all rank and inspected the property and programmes on offer to those locked up.

While inmates were unhappy with the food they received, the Low-Medium Security Units and Self-Care Unit had favourable reviews.

Prisoners there were grateful for the rehabilitative options, particularly those in the Drug Treatment Unit.

However, OCF’s provision of healthcare - both mental and physical - was lacking.

“Growth in the prisoner population and the high number of transfers in the months prior to our inspection had placed pressure on staffing and resources which could have compromised the standard or timeliness of care. The Health Centre’s medications room was not fit for purpose,” the report said.

During the inspection, the At Risk Unit was being used to house prisoners who were not at risk of self-harm.

And some prisoners with “significant and enduring mental health needs” were being managed in the prison environment due to a lack of forensic in-patient beds.

Ms Adair said: “Our inspection found a prison that, in most respects, was working effectively.”

Regional inspectors would continue to monitor progress at OCF and would report to her.

“I am confident this will provide assurance that any shortcomings will be identified and addressed at pace, and that examples of good practice will be shared so that other prisons can follow.” 

Problems at prison

• Sometimes difficult to find accommodation for all prisoners
• Inductions for prisoners in High-Security Unit (HSU) not always completed
• Some evidence of intimidation and gang-related tensions
• Some staff did not have on-body cameras in pre-record mode ready for use
• Very few opportunities to engage in constructive "out of cell activities” for HSU
• Health Centre’s medications room not fit for purpose
• Some prisoners with significant mental-health needs in prison environment due to a lack of forensic in-patient beds 

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