Inspection report released for Christchurch Men's Prison

26 June 2024

Inspection report for Christchurch Men’s Prison released

The Office of the Inspectorate has released an inspection report for Christchurch Men’s Prison, which was visited in September 2023.

Chief Inspector Janis Adair said the report found that generally the site was managing well in a challenging operating environment.

The inspection team found examples of positive practice at Christchurch Men’s Prison, such as a ‘first nights’ unit for men who had not been in prison before. The aim is to keep prisoners in the unit for a few days to allow for a comprehensive assessment and induction and to assist them with their immediate needs.

Good management and care of prisoners in the Intervention and Support Unit was observed, including for men at risk of self-harm or suicide. Daily multidisciplinary team meetings were held, and staff told us of good collaboration and sound clinical decision-making.

The prison’s engineering workshop had a clear pathway for prisoners to gain unit standards and qualifications. The men gained skills to fabricate, weld and manage projects in an environment which reflected a real workplace.

Remand prisoners who could be safely managed in lower security environments were being housed in suitable units and offered more time out of their cells. The site offered constructive activities to some men on remand.

However, higher security remand prisoners experienced shorter unlocks and had few programmes or constructive activities.

The regularity of visits by family/whānau had been impacted by the reduced staffing numbers and many men did not receive any visitors.

Ms Adair said the report found that senior leadership at the site had been relatively stable and was accessible, but was not always considered visible by staff and prisoners.

At the time of the inspection, the prison was operating with 79 percent of custodial staff. This meant some staff were fatigued, and some prisoner activities did not always happen due to staff being unavailable.

In addition, 55 percent of prisoners were on remand, and they were a more transient and unsettled population, many of whom had no family/whānau support in the area.

High security sentenced prisoners are no longer accommodated at the prison as most of the high security units have been decommissioned as no longer fit for purpose. Sentenced high security prisoners have been transferred to prisons outside of the Christchurch region, which could cause tension as men have been transferred away from their family/whānau.

There was a high number (42 percent) of gang affiliated men at the site and prisoners reported gang pressures and bullying in some units. We were told that, in some units, gangs controlled – or attempted to control – access to prisoner telephones, and that unit staff did not always manage this issue effectively.

A significant number of prisoners (39 percent) were Māori, but Māori men in most units told us there were few opportunities to engage in cultural activities.

Ms Adair said prison leaders, with support from the wider Department, were now expected to create an action plan to address these findings and track their progress. This action plan should be provided to the Office of the Inspectorate.

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 Corrections, is operationally independent, which is necessary to ensure objectivity and integrity.

The inspection process provides an ongoing insight into prisons and provides assurance that shortcomings are identified and addressed in a timely way, and that examples of good practice are acknowledged and shared across the prison network.