Monday, August 01, 2005

BMR: No way to run a prison system

Over the past ten months, I've been engaged in a lengthy series of OIA requests with the Department of Corrections aimed at establishing a few facts about the Department's Behaviour Management Regime (BMR) so that those responsible for it can be held accountable. A couple of months ago, after a long delay due to the information not yet having been compiled, I finally received a list of all 40 inmates and former inmates currently pursuing legal action against the government for placement on the BMR. I then sent a followup request aimed at eliciting the part of my request they had conveniently "forgotten": the name of the manager in each case who had approved the inmate's placement. Last month I received the following response:

...placement on the BMR was authorised by the Superintendent of a Deputy Superintendent at Auckland Prison. The Department was of the view that this could be done without any requirement for the formal documentation used for placing inmates on non-voluntary segregation to be completed, as it was the Department's position that inmates on the BMR were not on non-voluntary segregation. Having now reviewed the prison files for all the inmates concerned, it has become clear that in a number of cases there is no formal documentation approving placement on the BMR on file, as this was not considered necessary at the time.

Where the name of the manager who approved an inmate's placement on the BMR is known from file information, this is denoted on the attached list withthe initials of that manager recorded next to the inmate's name (eg Bryan Christy (BC); Kelly Puohotaua (KP) and Phil McCarthy (PMcC)). Where we have been unable to ascertain which of the four Auckland Prison Managers concerned approved the placement, this has been denoted as (U/A) ("unable to ascertain")...

(Emphasis added; you'll see why in a minute)

According to the attached list, 4 of the inmates had been placed by Bryan Christy, 5 by Kelly Puohotaua, and 3 by Phil McCarthy. But the manager responsible for placement could not be ascertained for a staggering 15 of the named inmates. Which seems to be Corrections in a nutshell: no responsibility, and no accountability. Inmates can be thrown in solitary confinement and forced to live like animals for two years, without any documentation being required, and without anyone having to "own" the decision or its consequences. This is no way to run a prison system - and if the management at Corrections believes that it is, they should be looking for new jobs.

But it gets worse. Four plus five plus three plus fifteen is less than 40; what happened to the other inmates? Here we see the true sadistic beauty of Corrections' "no documentation" system:

Lastly, you will see that (N/A) appears beside the names of 13 people on the attached list. This is because our review of their prison files has revealed no documentary evidence to support their claims that they were ever on the Behaviour Management Regime...

So having run a system where no formal documentation is required to place someone on the BMR, Corrections is now trying to use the absence of such documentation to deny people's claims of ever having been placed. It's a staggering attempt to use bureaucratic ineptitude as a legal defence, and hopefully the courts will treat it with the contempt it deserves.


I am discomforted by the fact that you have revealed the names of the managers responsible. I am not entirely sure you reasonable this discomfort is, after all these are their actions and they are responsible.

That said, however, they worked within the context of the prison service at that time.

Should public servants, whose actions were consistent with the department's guidelines/practices/procedures, be publically named and shamed?

Posted by Anonymous : 8/01/2005 02:51:00 PM


Posted by Bomber : 8/01/2005 04:24:00 PM


If it's the rules/guidelines/policies/procedures that are broken, why should the individual be named?

Posted by Anonymous : 8/01/2005 04:34:00 PM

The people implementing the procedures may be at fault, esp. where individual judgement is concerned.

Like many issues of abuse, naming the offenders may prompt others to come forward with information about them - even to vindicate them.

Nothing wrong with that, is there?

Posted by Bomber : 8/01/2005 08:58:00 PM