Invercargill Prison inspection report 2017


This is the fourth in a series of public reports on scheduled inspections of New Zealand prisons.

The inspections are intended to provide a ‘window into prisons’, giving early warning of emerging risks and challenges, and highlighting areas of innovation and good practice that other prisons might wish to follow.

Inspections are carried out against a set of healthy prison standards derived from United Nations guidelines for the treatment of people in detention.1 Prison performance is assessed under four principles:

  • Safety: Prisoners are held safely.
  • Respect: Prisoners are treated with respect for human dignity.
  • Rehabilitation: Prisoners are able, and expect, to engage in activity that is likely to benefit them.
  • Reintegration: Prisoners are prepared for release into the community, and helped to reduce their likelihood of re-offending.

The purpose of the prison system is to protect society from crime, both during imprisonment and after release.2 The four principles reflect that purpose, and also highlight the potentially competing demands that are often placed on prison staff and management.

In an ideal world, prisons would be able to deliver on all four principles on all occasions. In practice, safety, humane treatment, and rehabilitation and reintegration needs are sometimes balanced against one another, and short-term requirements sometimes take precedence over
longer-term needs.

I encourage prison directors, managers and staff to use these principles as a guide to decision making, and to foster continual improvement that, as much as possible, sees their prisons deliver on all four principles.

The inspection programme is still relatively new. It is an ambitious programme involving inspection of all New Zealand prisons within a 20-month period. We have learned a great deal from our first few inspections about the challenges facing New Zealand prisons, and about the
contribution inspections can make to prison management.

I am committed to progressively maturing our inspection methodology to ensure that we are agile in adapting to new developments and delivering robust and meaningful reports that can aid decision-making. We are reviewing our inspection methodology to reflect lessons learned from
our first few inspections and to bring the methodology into line with changes in United Nations standard rules on treatment of prisoners.

This year, we have adopted a new, simpler report structure. Although our inspections consider all areas of prison life, the report aims to highlight what matters most – focusing on areas where safety, humane treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration are at risk, and on innovative practices
that appear to be particularly effective at supporting all of these goals.

In general, Invercargill Prison took steps to keep prisoners safe and treated them in a humane and respectful manner. The prison offers a range of rehabilitation, employment and training opportunities. However, as in other reports on prison inspections, this report highlights some of
the pressures that have arisen from growth in the prisoner population, pressure on staffing and resources, reduction in unlock hours, and balancing safety and other requirements.

As well as conducting our scheduled programme of prison inspections, the Office of the Inspectorate will be providing ongoing monitoring through the work of our Regional Inspectors, who, in addition to their general responsibilities, will be reporting to me on Invercargill Prison’s
progress towards achieving the healthy prison standards and addressing the matters specifically identified in this report. Further rounds of scheduled inspections will also consider the prison’s progress.

My oversight of these activities will provide a significant ongoing and critical insight into prisons. I am confident this will provide assurance that any shortcomings will be identified and addressed at pace, and that examples of good practice will be shared so that other prisons can follow.

I acknowledge the cooperation of Invercargill Prison’s management and staff, both during the inspection and since, and I look forward to working with them as I continue to monitor progress.

Janis Adair
Chief Inspector of Corrections

1 As well as considering the four principles, the healthy prison standards require inspectors to consider nine specific areas of
prison life: reception and admission, first days in custody, good order, duty of care, environment, health, escorts and transfers,
rehabilitation, and reintegration.
2 United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (The Nelson Mandela Rules), rule 4. Also see
Corrections Act 2004, ss 5, 6.

Download the complete report