Inmates unjustly treated by corrections staff

By Tema Hemi

A veteran prison social worker supports an inmate's claim he has been unjustly treated by Corrections staff.

This follows a report by the Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner that describes the days and months leading up to the death of a female inmate at an Auckland women's corrections facility in 2017 and claims she did not receive adequate care. 

Everyday Pastor Gavin Brooks prays for better care for the ten thousand men and women in New Zealand's prison system.  

"There is a gentleman at the moment we are still working with, he's been there for over twenty years. And five years ago, he was released but has been recalled twice in that time for an injustice in our opinion. And blamed for something totally out of his area of responsibility," he says.

A current inmate under Pastor Brooks' care claims he has been treated unfairly. Brooks says this highlights the different forms of inadequate care or treatment for those in the country's prisons or correctional facilities.   

"He was adamant around te reo me ōna tikanga and used that as his centric view of rehabilitation, if you like, and reintegration. And the frustration at the parole board, you know, to convey that. Our observation, the incorrect assessment personnel were assessing him," says Brooks. 

Te Ao contacted the office of the Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner, Kevin Allan, for comment but he was unable to respond. However, his office did tell us that all the relevant details are in his report. 

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says, "Firstly I pay my respects to the family whom lost their loved one. When I was in opposition I knew of this issue and I was very vocal and protested on her behalf. I was vocal in saying that the Department of Corrections got it wrong and failed to provide adequate care."

Davis says his department needs to review its processes to avoid further misfortunes.

"I have made it clear to medical workers within the prison system that this will not happen again within our prisons," he says.

Brook says access to health treatment is a fundamental right.

"If we understood the Treaty of Waitangi, and if you understood the fact that we are human and we have that right to those things as a citizen, those things of health as a citizen of this country, whether inmate or otherwise it should be applied," he says.

In response to recommendations, the Department of Corrections provided evidence of staff training and undertook to arrange for the education of its staff on commonly presenting health conditions by an independent nursing educator.