Review underway into suicides and incidents of self-harm threat to life in prisons

The Office of the Inspectorate is carrying out a review into suicides and incidents of self-harm where there is a threat to life in prisons, with the aim of providing better outcomes for people in custody.

This thematic review will analyse a range of factors surrounding incidents involving apparent suicide and self-harm threat to life (from 2016 to 2021), to identify causative factors and trends, and the role and efficacy of current systems, practices and processes.

Specifically, the review will consider strategies and approaches to ensure that all people in prison are kept safe and identify how serious harm can be prevented.

Despite a falling prisoner population from 2017, the number of apparent suicides and incidents of self-harm where there was a threat to life increased during the 2020/21 financial year.

The review will also consider the experiences of a sample of the staff and others who were involved in some of the incidents.

Improving mental health outcomes and protecting vulnerable people in prison is an outcome articulated in the Department’s long-term strategy Hōkai Rangi:People in the care and management of Ara Poutama Aotearoa and their whānau are well… [including] ā-hinengaro [mental health]”.

An Inspectorate team, headed by Assistant Chief Inspector Russell Underwood, brings together significant clinical and custodial expertise. Additionally, an advisory group has been set up, including an expert on Māori mental health and a specialist medical adviser, Dr Iwona Stolarek.

Dr Stolarek is a Fellow of both the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators, with more than 10 years’ experience as a senior public sector medical executive and leader. She has served as the Chief Medical Officer for the Hutt Valley District Health Board and most recently as Medical Director for the Health Quality and Safety Commission New Zealand. She is currently working as a Medical Adviser and Independent Consultant.

The review Terms of Reference PDF, 1.9 MB