Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Cruel, inhuman and degrading

How bad are New Zealand's prisons? So bad that they're now getting formal warnings under OPCAT for cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment:

New Zealand prisons' use of excessive restraint is in breach of the UN Convention Against Torture, the Chief Ombudsman says.

The Ombudsman has found the use of tie-down beds and restraints in five separate cases - including one where a self-harming prisoner was restrained for 16 hours a day over 37 consecutive nights - constituted "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment.


In another case at Otago Corrections Facility, a prisoner was continuously kept in a waist restraint with his hands cuffed behind his back, after self-harming. The cuffs were used for 12 weeks prior to his release from prison, and were removed for two hours during the day, and every four hours at night.

The prisoner was locked in his cell for 21 hours a day, and did not receive any psychiatric treatment during the 12-week period despite a recommendation.

His medication was stopped upon his imprisonment. As a result, he said his mental health deteriorated and his self-harm escalated.

These (and other) abuses of restraints breached both OPCAT and Corections' own policies, as well as New Zealand law. Which invites the question: will those responsible for these abuses be prosecuted for assault? Sadly, I think we all know the answer to that. Crimes by the state are never punished, and officials enjoy effective impunity for their abuses. And then we wonder why they keep doing these things...

Corrections (of course) says it will clean up its act. But one of the core problems here seems to be a lack of adequate mental health treatment for prisoners and the denial of basic care. Unless they fix those aspects (and e.g. make sure that prisoners get their medication), this is just going to keep on happening.