Inspection report for Arohata Prison released

The Office of the Inspectorate Te Tari Tirohia today released the report of its inspection of Arohata Prison, which was conducted in September 2020.

“My inspectors found many positives,” says Chief Inspector Janis Adair. “The prison offered a range of rehabilitation and education programmes and the Drug Treatment Unit was welcoming and therapeutic. The prison’s health centres were well equipped and health staff were professional and compassionate.

“But there were also areas of concern. It was disappointing there was no primary mental health support and limited trauma counselling available.

“Similarly, the Mothers with Babies Unit was still not being used and improvements had not been carried out. This concern was raised in our 2018 inspection of Arohata Prison.”

At the time of this inspection, Arohata Prison was located at two sites – in the Wellington suburb of Tawa and at Trentham, Upper Hutt (adjacent to Rimutaka Prison). The Trentham site was closed in mid-December 2020.

The report noted there were few opportunities for Wāhine Māori to practise their culture and customs. Positively, however, pregnant women could access appropriate midwifery support and care.

The draft report was shared with Corrections’ National Commissioner and Deputy Chief Executive Health, and a comprehensive response is appended to this report, which notes: “A programme of work has been established to drive the transformation of the three women’s prisons into a cohesive network, underpinned by a trauma informed operating model, tailored specifically to the needs of women.”

“In recognition of the unique requirements of women in custody, I thought it important also to appoint a team to provide additional assurance about Corrections’ programme of work as well as the general treatment and conditions of women across all three prison sites,” says Ms Adair.

This report follows the release of an inspection report for Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility earlier this year. An inspection has been carried out at Christchurch Women’s Prison and will be released soon. The Office of the Inspectorate is also conducting a thematic review of the lived experience of women across the prison network, which will be released later this year.

This inspection is part of the programme of prison inspections carried out by the Office of the Inspectorate. These inspections provide an ongoing insight into prisons and assurance that shortcomings are identified and can be addressed in a timely way. Examples of good practice can be shared across the prison network.

Prisons are assessed against Inspection Standards, developed by the Office of the Inspectorate, which are based on the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (known as the Nelson Mandela Rules) and the UN gender-responsive standards for women prisoners (known as the Bangkok Rules).

The Office of the Inspectorate is a critical part of the independent oversight of the Corrections system and operates under the Corrections Act 2004 and the Corrections Regulations 2005. The Inspectorate, while part of the Department of Corrections, is operationally independent to ensure objectivity and integrity.

“I acknowledge the cooperation of Arohata Prison’s management and staff, both during the inspection and since, and I look forward to working with them as I continue to monitor progress,” says Ms Adair.

Read the report here.