Staff at prison disciplined

The Otago Corrections Facility near Milton. Photo: ODT files
The Otago Corrections Facility near Milton. Photo: ODT files
Corrections has investigated dozens of staff at Otago’s prison for misconduct in recent years, uncovering evidence of a breach in more than half of the cases.

The 41 investigations into staff misconduct at Otago Corrections Facility (OCF) from 2016 to 2018 included allegations of inappropriate behaviour or relationships, misuse of information and unsafe actions.

Investigators found enough evidence to take disciplinary action in 27 of the cases (66%), while one staff member resigned during an inquiry.

Dave Miller
Dave Miller
No evidence was found to support a breach of the code of conduct in the remaining 13 cases, according to figures obtained under the Official Information Act.

OCF has 308 staff reporting to the prison director, meaning the equivalent of 13% of staff have been investigated for misconduct in the past three years.

The prison has also recently begun an investigation into a senior corrections officer after a woman accused him of inappropriate behaviour, the Otago Daily Times understands.

The number of investigations launched against staff at the Milburn facility, south of Dunedin, has more than doubled in recent years, from eight in 2016 to 17 last year.

Most common were investigations into allegations of careless or unsafe behaviour (16).

That could include failing to secure a cell, mislaying confidential information or being at work under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Corrections said in a footnote to the data.

Fourteen of those 16 allegations resulted in disciplinary action — there were four cautions, four final written warnings, one verbal warning and five written warnings.

Next most common, at 11 investigations, was misuse of information or information systems, of which nine resulted in disciplinary action.

An OCF staff member who broke the law was also disciplined.

Prison director Dave Miller said the staffer was convicted of a driving offence in 2017 unrelated to their work and was handed a final written warning.

Since 2016, there have been at least 10 investigations into inappropriate behaviour or relationships at the prison.

No evidence was found to support a breach in six of those cases.

One staff member resigned during an investigation last year, another was given a written warning and the remaining two received verbal warnings.

Mr Miller said another complaint involving an OCF staff member had recently been received and was under investigation.

He would not comment while the investigation was in its "formative stage," but the Otago Daily Times understands the allegation related to inappropriate behaviour towards a woman.

Two allegations of bullying were received last year but no evidence was found to support a breach in either case, according to a letter attached to the Corrections data.

Last year, the prison also received an allegation of tampering with security cameras, but the Corrections Integrity Support Team found no evidence to support the claim, corporate services deputy chief executive Richard Waggott wrote.

In an emailed statement supplied via a communications staffer, prison director Mr Miller said Corrections had worked hard to strengthen policies and processes to ensure staff could safely raise concerns about bullying or harassment.

This could be done by raising an issue with any manager, through the executive leadership team directly or by contacting the Integrity Support Team via the 0800 Integrity phone line, he said.

"Staff are reminded frequently through various channels that speaking up is a core value, practised at all levels of the organisation.

"We're committed to ensuring that this remains an ongoing focus across the organisation."

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