Waikeria Prison inspection report 2017


This is the third 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 on the treatment of people in detention. These standards consider all aspects of prison life,1 with a particular focus on four guiding 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.

These principles reflect the essential purpose of the prison system, which is to protect society from crime, both during imprisonment and after release.2 They also highlight the complex demands that are 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 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.

From this report onwards, we are also adopting a new, simpler report structure. While 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.

The report highlights some of the pressures that Waikeria Prison and other prisons face – including the challenges associated with ageing facilities, a rising prison population, pressure on staffing and barriers to rehabilitation. It also highlights some significant successes – parts of the prison programme that have effectively supported prisoners to make positive changes.

As well as conducting our scheduled programme of prison inspections, the Office of the Inspectorate will be providing ongoing monitoring through the work of its Regional Inspectors who, in addition to their general responsibilities, will be reporting to me on progress against the healthy prison standards. 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 with pace, and that examples of good practice will be shared so that other prisons can follow.

I acknowledge the cooperation of Waikeria 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.

1As 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 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