NZ prison torture reports released

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files

New Zealand prisoners have been subjected to degrading treatment, including being filmed while strip searched, being bullied and victimised by other prisoners, and sleeping in ``deplorable'' accommodation, a watchdog has found.

The Ombudsman's Office also found prisoners had endured drinking discoloured tap water, wearing dirty clothes and being held in handcuffs for an extended period of time.

The findings were made by Crimes of Torture Act inspectors from the Ombudsman's Office who made unannounced visits to Arohata, Manawatu, Invercargill and Otago prisons.

The reports were released for the first time today by Corrections, after the Herald requested to see the reports in April.

The reports, written every year, cover issues including acts of torture; the use of seclusion; whether patients or prisoners are treated with dignity; and if they have access to enough light, air and water.

The Herald requested to see the reports in April while investigating the case of Ashley Peacock, an autistic man kept in prolonged seclusion at Capital & Coast District Health Board's secure Tawhirimatea unit, whose case was also reported on under the Act.

Corrections initially refused, saying to release the reports would impact the ``safety and security'' of prisoners and would ``prejudice the maintenance of the law''.

However, the Herald complained to the Ombudsman, who intervened, and Corrections was required to release one year's worth of reports - with redactions.

The reports are expected to cover the case of a prisoner who was tied to a bed for a long period of time, among other cases.

The tie-down bed incident is now under further investigation.

The accompanying Corrections media release stated that they are committed to managing all prisoners in a safe secure, humane and effective manner. They said they have rejected some of the reports' recommendations.

``Installation of privacy screens around the toilet area in the secure unit cells is not accepted as a recommendation because Corrections deems this would not be consistent with safe custodial management.''

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