Inspectorate releases three reports about women in prison

The Office of the Inspectorate today released three reports which aim to focus and strengthen Department of Corrections’ efforts to make significant and lasting changes in its women’s prison network.

“These reports examine the challenges that women face in prison, and offer an opportunity for Corrections to refresh its polices, practices and procedures for the management of women in prison and preparation for transition back to the community,” says Chief Inspector Janis Adair.

Around 500 women are housed in the three women’s prisons. Many women have experienced trauma and abuse, have mental health and substance use disorders, have low levels of literacy, and many actively support their family and whānau while in prison.

The Inspectorate’s focus on women in prison began with a complaint, in February 2020, from a lawyer representing three women at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility (ARWCF). A special investigation was launched into the management of the women between February 2019 and February 2020.

In March 2021, Ms Adair issued preliminary findings and recommendations, which included adverse findings around the use of segregation and force.

Following the start of the special investigation, the Inspectorate broadened its scrutiny of women in prison to include inspections of the three women’s prisons and a thematic inspection of the lived experience of women in prisons.

ARWCF was inspected in June 2020, Arohata Prison in September 2020 and Christchurch Women’s Prison in October 2020. The inspection reports for ARWCF and Arohata Prison were published earlier this year on the Inspectorate website, and the report for Christchurch Women’s Prison is released today.

“The thematic inspection provides insights into the vulnerabilities and specific needs of women and, importantly, shares the voices and lived experiences of both women in prison and staff,” says Ms Adair.

“Considered together, these reports (the special investigation into the management of three women at ARWCF, the inspection reports for the three women’s prisons and the thematic report on the lived experience of women in prison) provide compelling evidence about the management of women in prisons.”

The Office of the Inspectorate works to ensure that all prisoners are treated in a way that is fair, safe, secure and humane. The Inspectorate is part of the Department of Corrections, but functions independently to ensure objectivity and integrity.

Please note: A natural justice process was followed in drafting the special investigation report. The three women were invited, through their lawyer, to comment and provide feedback. Names and personal information have been redacted in the public version of this report at the request of the three women, to protect their privacy and the privacy of their whānau. Staff names have also been redacted. Other sections of the report have been redacted for privacy reasons.

Listen to Chief Inspector Janis Adair M4A, 688.2 KB speaking about the three reports.

The reports:

Christchurch Women's Prison inspection report

Thematic Report: The lived experience of women in prison

Special Investigation into the management of three wāhine at ARWCF