Tuesday, December 16, 2014


The Human Rights Commission released its Annual report of activities under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) [PDF] today. This is a serious document, a core part of our monitoring regime to ensure that people aren't being tortured or subject to cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment in our detention facilities. And while they generally aren't, the gaps it exposes are horrifying:

  • The NZDF was criticised by the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture for the poor quality of its base holding cells (basically, a locked room with no toilet). Oddly, the Inspector of Service Penal Establishments - who is supposed to be monitoring those cells - thinks their job is to make excuses for NZDF rather than force them to clean their act up.
  • The Children's Commissioner is tasked with monitoring CYFS detention facilities, but is not funded to do so. They have extensive recommendations on the management of those facilities, aimed at shifting the culture towards de-escalating conflict and focusing on the needs of children. Reading between the lines, the current management culture significantly increases the risk of ill-treatment of children in secure CYFS facilities.
  • Corrections rejects 20% of all recommendations from the Ombudsman around prisoner care. Given that these are recommendations aimed at preventing torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, that's simply scary.
  • Corrections is still detaining people in inhumane conditions in their segregation facilities.
  • Waikeria Prison's youth unit is filthy and substandard, with no effort made to educate or rehabilitate prisoners.
  • At Auckland Women’s Prison, male Corrections staff can perv at prisoners while they are showering using cameras. Corrections has rejected all recommendations to change this.
  • There are still mental health prisoners being restrained and subjected to solitary confinement unjustifiably.
  • There are still huge gaps in our monitoring of detention facilities - namely aged care facilities, dementia homes, and boarding schools. There is evidence of ill-treatment occurring in all of these.
So, while we're not torturing anyone, this isn't exactly a clean bill of health. And what's worse is that many of these problems, particularly around the privacy and dignity of prisoners, have been ongoing for years. We need to clean our act up, and fast.