25 Nov 2018

Prison seeks to weaken gangs

12:21 pm on 25 November 2018

An inspection into Hawke's Bay prison has found it has reduced violence, intimidation and contraband, and is working to deter gang affiliations.

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There were 61 violent incidents and 127 threats recorded at Hawke's Bay Regional Prison in the first half of 2018. Photo: 123rf

Inspectors last year highlighted staffing pressures, double bunking, gang influences and access to drugs at Hawke's Bay Regional Prison.

The new report from the Office of the Inspectorate shows that the prison has reduced bullying and vandalism, increased programmes and activities, and improved support for prisoners at risk of self-harm.

However, 61 violent incidents and 127 threats or verbal abuse were recorded in the first six months of the year.

The report said a new high-medium security unit opened in March with improved sightlines and staffing has been increased.

Corrections said it had been working hard to weaken the impact of gangs in the prison environment by supporting prisoners who want to end their involvement.

"A large gang population at the prison makes things challenging for staff but everyday they go to work to ensure accepted international standards of safety, human dignity, rehabilitation and reintegration needs within prisons are met," said Chief Custodial Officer Neil Beales.

"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."

It was a sign of the dedication of the staff over the last twelve months that there has been such a concerted effort to make the environment at the prison better, he added.

"The prison has a large number of Māori prisoners, with almost 70 percent of prisoners identifying as Māori," he said. "The new 59 bed unit will go a long way to meeting the needs of a large number of the prisoners."