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Source: Office of the Ombudsman

The Chief Ombudsman has begun an investigation into how the Department of Corrections has responded to repeated calls for reforms aimed at improving conditions for prisoners.
“In many areas, I have not seen significant and sustained improvements to prisoners’ welfare and rehabilitation,” says Peter Boshier.
“This is despite concerns about conditions being raised by me and others at different levels of the department, and report after report being released calling for change.”
“I simply want to know why.”
Mr Boshier says his systemic investigation will be independent, wide ranging, and he expects it will take a year to complete. He notified the Chief Executive of Corrections last week that he would be conducting a self-initiated investigation.
“I want to find out why problems continue to exist across the whole prison network and how the department is genuinely taking action to address these.”
“I have become increasingly concerned about seeing the same issues coming up time and time again,” he says.
“I now need to determine if there are any system-wide issues in the department that may be preventing it from making changes that I and other oversight agencies have been calling for.”
The Chief Ombudsman will be looking at what the department has done to effectively address:
-the treatment and conditions of people held in all correctional facilities;
-opportunities for constructive activity, such as education, employment, rehabilitation and reintegration programmes; and
-performance monitoring and review processes, such as complaints management, oversight of segregation orders, use of force reviews, and other operational or incident reviews.
The Chief Ombudsman will consider these issues through the lens of the department’s te Tiriti o Waitangi and its stewardship obligations.
The investigation’s areas of focus may be adjusted or refined as more information becomes available over time.
The investigation is expected to be completed by mid to late 2022, depending on what is found. It is currently at the initial planning stage.
The investigation terms of reference are attached to this statement.
As this is a systemic investigation, the Chief Ombudsman will not be looking at individual complaints. Prisoners who wish to make a complaint about their individual circumstances can continue to do so by calling the Ombudsman’s dedicated prisoner telephone line.
INVESTIGATION TERMS OF REFERENCE: Ara Poutama Aoteroa -Department of Corrections – actions and/or omissions to make sustained and significant improvement to prisoner welfare and rehabilitation
14 May 2021
The Chief Ombudsman has commenced a self-initiated investigation into Ara Poutama Aotearoa – Department of Corrections.
Over the years, many findings, recommendations and suggestions for improvement have been made to the Department of Corrections by oversight entities on a wide range of critical issues. Viewed collectively, it does not appear that the concerns raised by these entities have been effectively acted on by the Department in a way that has demonstrated significant and sustained improvement to prisoner welfare and rehabilitation.
The Chief Ombudsman’s role, as an Officer of Parliament, is to investigate the exercise of power by public sector agencies to ensure that there can be trust and confidence in the system. As part of his role, the Chief Ombudsman has unique and wide-ranging powers to investigate acts and decisions across the public sector, require all relevant information from any party, and form an independent opinion. Carrying out an investigation allows the Chief Ombudsman to make recommendations as he sees fit.
The Chief Ombudsman’s investigation will consider the Department’s acts and/or omissions in responding to concerns and suggestions for improvement by oversight entities. The purpose of the investigation is to understand what steps the Department has taken, and to identify whether there are any systemic issues that may be affecting the Department’s ability to achieve significant and sustained change.
In the context of the Department’s te Tiriti o Waitangi and stewardship obligations, the investigation will include looking at the actions it has taken to effectively address:
-the treatment and conditions of persons detained in corrections facilities – such as the physical environment, as well as the way the Department protects the mana of those in its care and its staff members;
-the provision of constructive activities for those in the Department’s care – such as education, employment, rehabilitation and reintegration programmes; and
-the performance monitoring and review measures in place to ensure good practice and sound decision making – such as complaints management, oversight of segregation orders, use of force reviews, and other operational or incident reviews.
The Chief Ombudsman is in the initial stages of planning and scoping this investigation. As the investigation progresses, the Chief Ombudsman may wish to adjust or refine specific areas of focus, as is deemed necessary.
The Chief Ombudsman intends to undertake this investigation, including the information gathering process, in an iterative and collaborative fashion with the Department of Corrections and other relevant stakeholders.
Upon completion of the investigation, a preliminary report will be prepared and provided to relevant parties for comment. Following that consultation process, the final report will be tabled in Parliament and published on the Ombudsman’s website.