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Inmates served food beside toilets: report

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 30/03/2017

© File. Remand prisoners jailed at Invercargill and Manawatu were made to eat next to uncovered toilets in their cells after being denied access to a dining room, the Human Rights Commission says.

A report following visits to youth and adult facilities around the country also found a lack of staff supervision and culture of intimidation at those two jails among other "serious issues" with detention facilities.

The Monitoring Places of Detention report, released on Friday, revealed almost one in two prisoners at Invercargill and Manawatu said they had been victims of assault in prison, but more than 80 per cent did not report them.

Further results from a voluntary questionnaire, completed by 266 prisoners at both jails, found it difficult to access complaint forms and had low levels of faith in the complaint system.

That's prompted a recommendation from the Human Rights Commission that all District Health Boards adopt a "zero-tolerance approach" to violence by automatically referring assaults and other incidents to police.

The violence issues extend to other prisons and mental health facilities too, the report co-authored by Chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford, Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft and Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier, among others, found.

At He Puna Waiora inspectors discovered a prisoner who had been seriously assaulted 10 days earlier at the Waiatarau Unit mental health facility.

"That incident was not reported to the police, despite the service user's injuries requiring surgery," the report found.

The clinical director said the man's mental and physical state, and fitness to participate in an investigation, were all considered.

Concerns were also raised about a lack of purposeful activities and poor quality cell standards for remand prisoners.

"We found that remand prisoners at both Invercargill Prison and Manawatu Prison were housed in unacceptable conditions," the report found.

"Remand prisoners at these sites were denied access to dining facilities and were required to eat their meals in their cells, next to uncovered toilets."

While a new dining facility is being built at Invercargill Prison, the department says remand prisoners, who are managed as high-security by default, won't be allowed to access it.

The report follows one earlier this month by Judge Boshier that found some prisoners had their rights under the UN torture convention violated during restraint.

The general management of at-risk prisoners was "substandard and detrimental to their well-being", Judge Boshier said.

He found one prisoner in Auckland was secured to a tie-down bed for 16 hours at a time, 37 nights in a row, while another in Otago Prison was kept in a waist restraint with his hands cuffed behind his back almost continuously over three-and-a-half months.

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