This can be attributed to Chief Custodial Officer Neil Beales.
Corrections says that significant improvement, despite challenging circumstances, has been achieved at Waikeria Prison since an inspection was carried out in mid 2017 by Corrections’ Chief Inspector, Janis Adair.
The Inspector’s independent assessment raised 42 issues at the prison, with 30 now resolved and 12 partially resolved. A number of the matters were resolved quickly through scheduled maintenance work on cells and outdoor facilities; cleaning and water blasting; providing additional recreational activities for prisoners; replacing faulty water heaters and improving the supply of clothing and bedding.
Corrections says that a number of staff vacancies at the time of the report partly contributed to the concerns raised. A recruitment drive in recent months has helped resolve these issues, with more than 60% of the custodial staff vacancies now filled and more appointments imminent.
“Inspections like this are invaluable. Daily life in a prison can be demanding and due to the busy and complex nature of the job, staff can miss the opportunity to reflect on progress. A report such as this helps refocus our work and maintain standards across the system,” said Mr Beales.
“We are committed to ensuring we are meeting accepted international standards of safety, human dignity, rehabilitation and reintegration needs within prisons. This independent role of the Chief Inspector will ensure those standards are maintained and improved on, wherever possible.”
“Waikeria Prison provides extensive opportunities for prisoners in rehabilitation and reintegration. It operates one of New Zealand’s biggest dairy farms and also provides prisoners with an assortment of opportunities to gain qualifications in other fields, including cooking and engineering as well as a strong focus on kaupapa Maori rehabilitation programmes.”
Gangs have been identified in the report as having an influence in the prison's high security facility and this is an area that Corrections continually monitors.
“Gangs, in various forms, have existed in New Zealand communities and prisons for several generations. This is an on-going problem recognised by both Corrections and the New Zealand Police,” said Mr Beales.
“Corrections provides exit pathways to prisoners who want to end their involvement with a gang. All reasonable steps are taken to discourage prisoners from gang membership and make sure that there are safe pathways out, if prisoners want to leave.”
Another area of concern raised by the Inspector was around the length of time prisoners in the At Risk Unit were kept locked up.
“This has been addressed by prison management, and was again due in part to lower than optimum staff levels," said Mr Beales.
The national prison muster is sitting at approximately 10,600 and the Chief Inspector has identified that some issues facing Waikeria Prison, including a growing muster, are outside of its control.