Corrections defends slow progress on Hōkai Rangi strategy

10:41 am on 16 December 2020

The Corrections official responsible for implementing its Hōkai Rangi strategy says more time is needed for the programme to work effectively.

Exterior of Paremoremo Prison

Paremoremo prison. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

A report by the Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier into the country's only maximum security prison Paremoremo revealed that prisoners were being locked in cells for up to 23 hours a day, despite opening up new units for rehabilitation.

He also found two breaches of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

That caught the ire of former prisoner and justice reform advocate Awatea Mita who says she was appalled at the findings.

Mita says Corrections had no credibility in being able to deliver the Hōkai Rangi strategy, which was meant to deliver better outcomes for Māori and their whānau.

Hōkai Rangi is a long-term strategy which aims to cut the number of Māori in prison from 52 percent down to 16 - to match the overall Māori population.

The five-year goal is to reduce the number by 10 percent.

However, Corrections deputy chief executive-Māori Topia Rameka told Morning Report there is 180 years of adjustment that has to take place with the implementation of Hōkai Rangi, which has been operational for a year now.

He says Corrections still needs to embed the philosophies of Hōkai Rangi into the department's structures if it is to reduce the number of Māori prisons.

"[Boshier's] report is a very operational report, a snapshot of one site of 18 sites across our network... I think time will tell how we are progressing on that journey."

Rameka says Corrections welcomed Boshier's report and that the department was working on implementing each of them.

He also disputed that nothing had been done to apply the changes to boost rehabilitation programmes.

"We provide significant rehabilitation programmes to many of the prisoners available at Auckland Prison, we provide high risk personality programmes.

"In fact I was at Northland Regional Corrections facility only two weeks ago where I met with two men who had recently come out of Auckland Prison, had gone through the rehabilitation programmes, were currently in self care units and had connected with their whānau."

Regarding Boshier's findings that some prisoners were being kept in their cells for up to 23 hours a day, Rameka says it is important to remember that Paremoremo is a maximum security prison and the safety of both the prisoners and staff is paramount.

"There are times when they themselves [prisoners] are at needs of extra care, and that might mean mental health care, health care, or other reasons which may prohibit them from advancing into some specific rehabilitation programmes.

"We try and address those needs as soon as we can so that they can get on the rehabilitation journey as soon as possible."

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