Corrections subjects at-risk prisoners to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment"

The Department of Corrections has broken anti-torture laws in its treatment of prisoners at risk of self-harm, according to the Ombudsman.

Chief Ombudsman Judge Peter Boshier today released a report into how Corrections treats prisoners at risk of self harm. The findings are damning.

Prisoners have been subjected to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for the purpose of Article 16 of the Convention against Torture," according to the report. In short: New Zealand has been torturing at-risk prisoners.

Radio NZ reports:

It details five cases where restraints were used for long periods, including one inmate in Auckland Prison who was tied down to a bed for 16 hours at a time, 37 nights in a row.

NZ Herald quotes Nigel Hampton, QC:

"It's inhumane and it's small wonder that it can be described as torture," he said.

"It's quite extraordinary that in a first world country which prides itself on its treatment of its citizens that this is happening."

Although one Corrections worker has been sacked one must also question the adequacy of Corrections' internal processes and senior management that it has fallen to an external party to identify lawbreaking at the department. It is also clear from the report that inadequate resourcing is a significant cause for the misuse of techniques such as tie-down beds.

Corrections last year reluctantly released four Crimes Of Torture Act (COTA) reports to NZ Herald, after eight months of delays and refusals. Eventually redacted reports were released after a complaint upheld by the Ombudsman.

Earlier this month the department asked activist group No Pride In Prisons for almost $10,000 to see all 33 COTA reports produced by the Office of the Ombudsman since 2011. The group is appealing the response.

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