The history of inspectors for New Zealand prisons dates back to 1880, when the first inspector was appointed in response to concerns about the state of the then colony’s prisons.
Since then, the role of inspector has been affirmed by legislation, including:
- the Prisons Act 1908, which allowed for Visiting Justices to visit and inspect prisons and report to the relevant Minister
- the Public Service Act 1912, which established Inspectors of Penal Institutions who reported to the Secretary for Justice
- the Inspectors of Penal Institutions Act 1919
- the Penal Institutions Act 1954
- the Corrections Act 2004
The Inspectorate became part of the Department of Corrections when the Department was separated from the then Department of Justice in 1995.
The current Office of the Inspectorate was established under the Corrections Act 2004 as a dedicated complaints resolution, investigation and assurance function. The Office is independent of prison management, and its staff are independent of the activities they review.
Inspectors can also investigate complaints from offenders in the community.
In early 2017, the Office of the Inspectorate was enhanced to provide greater assurance about the fair, safe, secure and humane treatment of prisoners, operational issues and best practice, and any emerging risks in relation to prisons.
The Inspectorate now has a Chief Inspector, principal inspectors, inspectors and assistant inspectors, along with other specialist and support staff.