18 May 2015

NZ prisons under fire in UN report

7:39 pm on 18 May 2015

The Corrections Minister is rejecting criticisms of the New Zealand prison system made in a United Nations report.

In a report on how New Zealand is implementing UN initiatives against inhuman treatment, the Committee Against Torture has identified 13 areas of concern.

They include domestic violence, the Independent Police Conduct Authority, over-representation of Maori in prisons, use of tasers and people-trafficking.

The UN paper claimed prisons were overcrowded, had inadequate health services, and too much power to strip-search inmates.

The Minister, Sam Lotu-Iiga, said New Zealand had one of the best corrections systems in the world.

"I don't know whether I agree with the assertions that they make based on the evidence that I've seen.

"I accept their right to make the points, but I don't accept that they are major problems in our prison system."

Mr Lotu-Iiga said he would consider the recommendations, but he was comfortable with the state of New Zealand prisons.

Concerns about private prisons

A United Nations committee said the Government needed to keep a closer eye on privately run prisons, which it said were more violent than comparable public prisons.

A cell at Auckland Prison.

A cell at Auckland Prison. Photo: RNZ

On private prisons, the report says the rate of violence between prisoners and assaults on guards at the Serco-managed Mt Eden prison is higher than in public prisons.

The committee says the Government needs to ensure private prisons are upholding the same standards as those in the public system.

This is the sixth such report on New Zealand's implementation of the Convention against Torture, Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Almost every report has drawn attention to the over-representation of Maori and across every aspect of the justice system.

While Maori make up about 15 percent of the general population they account for about half of the prison population - and that jumps to 60 percent for women.