13 March 2017
Day in the life of: Inspector Louise MacDonald
What does a Corrections’ Inspector do?
A big part of the role is routine prison visits where I have face-to-face contact with prisoners, staff and management. Each visit starts with a management briefing and ends with an inspector’s debrief. At the end of each visit I am responsible for producing a report which records any issues of concern and agreed resolutions.
We have an annual programme of routine visits to sites, plus ad-hoc visits and we respond to serious or critical incidents as directed. Currently we do around five prison visits per year which requires travelling around our region every couple of months.
We also provide information and advice for offenders in the community as well as members of the general public who often contact the Inspectorate for assistance. While the legislative authority of an inspector extends to offenders serving community sentences, we don’t get as many complaints in this area, however they do require the same degree of investigation and reporting as any other complaint received by the Inspectorate.
Another major part of being an inspector is responsibility for death in custody investigations. The reports are presented to the Coroner’s Office and we often have to speak at the inquests and answer questions regarding our reports.
The Inspectorate also operates an 0800 phone service for prisoners and community offenders.
Inspectors can also provide advice and guidance to prison directors and residential managers and other staff in regards to policy, operations and interpretation of legislation.
How long have you worked as an inspector?
Approximately 11 years.
What did you do before becoming an inspector?
I was the Superintendent (equivalent to Prison Director) at Rimutaka Prison. Prior to that I was a unit manager and custodial officer. I also spent time at National Office and other prisons. In my previous life, before Corrections, I worked for a finance company.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
Providing a sound complaint resolution service, not only for prisoners, but also for offenders in the community and members of the general public who may contact the Inspectorate for assistance.
I also enjoy the variety of work. One week you can be out, visiting a prison and communicating with a variety of people, and the next week you can be in the office writing a report without having spoken to anyone, unless of course the Chief Inspector’s ringing to give me more work!
Of course I also enjoy working with my colleagues in the Inspectorate team. The team support each other but also have the autonomy to manage an individual workload.
What is the most challenging part of the job?
We work in a challenging environment. Complaints by their vary nature have a negative connotation and many of our complainants can be aggressive and have unrealistic expectations. I need to constantly check that I am providing every complainant a fair process that is timely and objective.
What would your advice be for anyone wanting to be an inspector of Corrections?
Essential – sense of humour and genuine interest in people.
Anyone interested in becoming an inspector needs to see the big picture as well as the ability to assess the detail. They should also have a personal philosophy that all prisoners and offenders have the right to be treated with respect and that they have entitlements which are governed by legislation and policy. It is the inspector’s role to ensure that each individual complaint and or investigation is done without prejudice and with integrity.