Yesterday the Ombudsman formally reported New Zealand for violating the Convention Against Torture over its cruel, inhuman and degrading restraint of prisoners. Today, the government has announced plans to beef up the prison inspection regime:
New Zealand's prisons inspection regime is being beefed up, with the Government announcing regular reviews of all prisons and a new inspection team.
A new prisons inspection team would be set up to manage the inspections, "ring-fenced" from the general Corrections inspectorate which would continue to investigate specific complaints.
Upston said she would be provided with quarterly reports from the inspection team, which would be made public.
The Government would also provide new, wide-ranging powers for a beefed-up chief inspector's role, while there would be an increase in staff including eight new inspectors.
This is all good, a significant improvement from the status quo. And yet there's still a significant problem, in that the prison inspectorate is part of Corrections rather than being independent. And Corrections (and its Minister) have strong institutional incentives to ensure bad news does not emerge from it, and the political power to corrupt and bury reports.
If we want this done properly, the prison inspectorate needs to be totally independent of Corrections. And it needs to report to Parliament, not the Minister.