ZB

Revealed: Corrections Minister steps in over prison riot squads

Author
Aaron Dahmen,
Publish Date
Wed, 1 Jun 2022, 5:34pm
Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Revealed: Corrections Minister steps in over prison riot squads

Author
Aaron Dahmen,
Publish Date
Wed, 1 Jun 2022, 5:34pm

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has revealed he told his department to start centrally recording deployments of prison riot squads. 

A Newstalk ZB investigation earlier this year found Corrections was in the dark over how many times the teams were being called out, with staff instead writing them into separate incident reports. 

At the time, a Corrections spokesperson maintained the department does keep track and, given enough time, would be able to gather the data. 

But when ZB asked for the same details under the Official Information Act (OIA), the request was partially refused as it didn't exist. 

Now it's emerged that after ZB's enquiries, Kelvin Davis stepped in and urged Corrections to do better. 

"I've had a conversation ... they're looking to sort that out." 

"They [the details] need to be centrally located." 

Davis said he spoke to Corrections "months ago". 

That's despite him seemingly dismissing the issue when asked it in March, saying he wasn't "terribly concerned". 

Corrections Acting National Commissioner Leigh Marsh said recording of advanced control and restraint (ACR) deployments was an area that's being worked on. 

"A register of ACR deployments has been created; ACR commanders have been asked to recall and record previous activations and deployments over the last 12 months; and in future, centralised records will be kept of ACR deployments." 

Marsh provided "initial information" about some call-outs, including during the Waikeria Prison riot in 2020/21. 

"It is important to note that this data is still being validated by Corrections staff," he said. 

An ACR team includes officers who have received additional specialist training, and can be called upon for significant events of prisoner disorder, like riots and brawls. 

Force may only be used lawfully against prisoners when a staff member has grounds to believe it's necessary, such as for self-defence, or to protect another person. 

But the Green Party's justice spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman's previously raised concerns over whether officials were leaving themselves open to serious accusations behind bars. 

"There's a hole there that leaves us vulnerable to being torturers, frankly," she said. 

When ZB first uncovered the lack of data, National Party corrections spokesman Simon O'Connor raised the alarm – saying Davis needed to get more oversight. 

"He's got to go back to his department and say, right, change your reporting processes." 

- by Aaron Dahmen