12 Jan 2021

Prison worker "ashamed" to have worked for Department of Corrections

From Morning Report, 8:34 am on 12 January 2021

A former prison staffer says he feels ashamed to ever have worked for the Department of Corrections.

Corrections has come under fire recently for its treatment of prisoners since the Waikeria stand-off.

Mike Rowntree worked at Hawke's Bay Regional Prison for six years and told RNZ reporter Riley Kennedy what happened at Waikeria came as no surprise.

In response, Corrections acting national commissioner, Ben Clark, said the department manages some of New Zealand's most dangerous people in an environment that can be complex and challenging and it has a number of processes in place to safeguard the welfare of people in prison and its staff.

"Our staff manage around 8,700 people in prison and 29,000 offenders in the community each week, with a significant number working in frontline roles. The overwhelming majority fulfil their duties with professionalism, integrity and commitment. As with any large organisation, we may encounter a few staff who cannot maintain the high standards required. When our staff do not meet these standards, we take the necessary and appropriate action."

Mr Clark said its staff are trained to work with dangerous and volatile people in a challenging environment where assaults are often spontaneous and come without any warning.

He said Corrections expects a high standard of conduct from all employees and significant emphasis is placed on this throughout the recruitment and selection processes.