Thursday, February 03, 2005

An independent watchdog

The government has agreed to investigate establishing an independent watchdog for our prison system. This can only be a good move. Existing avenues of complaint are ineffective and viewed as biased - and not without justification. Like the Police, the Department of Corrections is effectively its own judge and jury, and seems unsympathetic to complaints by prisoners; last year it was criticised by the Chief Ombudsman for being uninterested in investigating allegations of serious assaults by its staff. Absent a significant cultural change in the department (hardly likely, given their refusal to discipline management over the BMR or "goon squad" abuses), the only way confidence can be restored is to turn investigation of complaints over to an independent body.


Tautoko. I have raised the possibility of combining an Independent Prison Inspectorate with the new, stalled,Independent Police Complaints Authority. That is delayed awaiting the outcome of the inquiry into allegations of police rape. That means that if the government takes up my suggestion there is time to do the policy work needed to bring them together.

A combined office means one secretariate, saving bureaucracy costs, but two separate authorities, much as occurs with the Human Rights Comissioners and the Race Relations Comissioner. Both appointed by Parliament, so independent of the Corrections or Police in appointment. Both funded through the Ministry of Justice, so budgetarily independent.

The synergies are obvious. Both charged with investigating complaints against professional bodies authorised by statute to use force, both with a reputation of closing ranks when criticised. This would allow a shared pool of investigators, allowing a critical mass to develop.

Here's hoping it flies


Posted by Anonymous : 2/03/2005 04:07:00 PM