Arohata Prison inspection report 2020

This report is part of the programme of prison inspections carried out by the Office of the Inspectorate. The inspection process provides an ongoing invaluable insight into prisons and provides assurance that shortcomings are identified and addressed in a timely way, and examples of good practice are shared across the prison network.

At the time of our inspection, Arohata Prison was located across two sites – at the Wellington suburb of Tawa and at Trentham, Upper Hutt (adjacent to Rimutaka Prison). Wāhine and staff based in the Upper Prison were being relocated back to the Tawa site. By mid-December 2020, all the wāhine had been relocated and the Upper Prison was closed.

I am pleased to note that the inspection found that, overall, the prison environment was clean and in a good state of repair. The Drug Treatment Unit was welcoming and therapeutic. The prison offers a range of rehabilitation and education programmes, but access is limited by a shortage of programme rooms. Many of the wāhine worked, but there were few opportunities to gain skills and qualifications for meaningful employment on release.

The prison’s health centres were well equipped and health staff were professional and compassionate. It was disappointing there was no primary mental health support and limited trauma counselling available.

Most prisoners at the Tawa site reported feeling safe, but some at the Upper Prison said they were bullied by other prisoners.

I note there were few opportunities for Wāhine Māori to practise their culture and customs. Pregnant wāhine could access appropriate midwifery support and care, but it was disappointing that the Mothers with Babies Unit was not used and improvements had not been carried out.