Special investigation into minimum entitlements at Auckland Prison

17 April 2024

This report reflects the experience of a significant group of men in units 11, 12 and 13 at Auckland Prison. For up to nine months (until mid-July 2023), prisoners in the three units were denied their minimum entitlement to an hour out of their cell each day, instead being largely managed on a regime where they were unlocked every second day. For 107 of these men, this regime lasted longer than 100 days, and for 24 men more than 200 days.

It is understandable that COVID-19 and subsequent staff shortages caused difficulties for the prison management. That was the case for all 18 prisons across the network. However, the situation that unfolded in units 11, 12 and 13 at Auckland Prison resulted from many factors, including inadequate staffing levels, where the loss of experienced custodial staff was exacerbated by the appointment of new staff who had only recently completed initial training and were faced with managing some of New Zealand’s most challenging individuals.

Minimum entitlements are a statutory legal requirement not a privilege, and it is concerning that Auckland Prison continued a regime for an extended period of time in which prisoners were intentionally not unlocked daily. There appeared to be no plan that resulted in meaningful action to return to meeting the minimum entitlement. As time passed, the situation appeared to have became normalised, as the competing priorities of staff shortages and staff and prisoner safety were managed.

This situation must be seen in context. Auckland Prison is part of the Northern Region, and the Regional Commissioner reports to Corrections’ National Office. I have found that the challenges of the prison were well known and understood by managers at National Office. However, despite their awareness this did not translate into the meaningful mobilisation of a network-wide response to address the ongoing challenges for Auckland Prison and the Prison Director.

Janis Adair
Chief Inspector