Last year, the High Court entered a landmark judgement against the Department of Corrections, ruling that the department's Behaviour Management Regime (BMR) was unlawful and inhumane, and awarding compensation to five current and former inmates for their treatment. Since then, a further fourty inmates have filed claims - and the government has passed draconian legislation aimed at letting Corrections off the hook for its failure to abide by fundamental human rights standards.
I've spent the last ten months trying to squeeze information out of Corrections on how the BMR was developed and who was responsible for its development and implementation. In the process, I've uncovered some remarkable facts - that the legality of the scheme was not even considered during its development, that prisoners were placed in the scheme without any documentation (and that this is now being used as an excuse to deny claims), and that no Department of Corrections staff have been disciplined in any way, despite the fiasco having cost the department well over a million dollars. As with the "goon squad" incident, there has been no accountability; management at Corrections get to make poor decisions which violate the law and cost the taxpayer money - and they get to keep their jobs (or even get promoted).
Finally, though, I've got the information I was seeking: how much each of those responsible for assigning prisoners to the BMR has cost us. This will be an underestimate, as only 40 out of an estimated 200 inmates subjected to the BMR have filed claims, only 12 of them can actually be linked to a specific manager (paperwork for the rest being incomplete or entirely absent), and there being no estimate of legal fees (over $650,000 in the Taunoa case and still rising) - but it is a start. And the sums involved, while not enormous, are certainly enough to raise the question of whether these managers should be receiving their annual bonuses.
According to the judge in the Taunoa case, a month on the BMR is valued at $2500. On this basis, the cost of Corrections' mismanagement if current claims are successful works out as follows:
- Phil McCarthy (General Manager of the Public Prisons Service) placed 3 inmates for a total of 27 months. Total cost: $67,500.
- Bryan Christy (Site Manager) placed 4 inmates for a total of 47 months. Total cost: $117,500.
- Kelly Puohotaua (current position unknown, but at the time held a position as superintendent or deputy superintendent of Auckland Prison) placed 5 inmates for a total of 56 months. Total cost: $140,000.
- 15 other inmates for whom the responsible manager could not be ascertained were placed for a total of 221 months. Total cost: $552,500.
All up, this policy could cost almost $900,000, plus legal fees. And while the new Prisoners' and Victims' Claims Act will almost certainly reduce that, the fact remains that these managers have presided over appalling negligence and exposed their department to significant financial risk. Shouldn't they be held accountable for that?