“Cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” of prisoners

Dealing with difficult prisoners intent on self harm is challenging, but basic human rights are a fundamental requirement for our prisons.

An investigation by the Ombudsman is causing a stir, and so it should.

Report: A question of restraint


In 2007, the Ombudsmen were designated as one of the National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) under the Crimes of Torture Act (COTA), with responsibility for examining and monitoring the general conditions and treatment of detainees in New Zealand prisons.

This report details observations and findings relating to prisoners who have been considered at risk of suicide and self-harm, who are managed in At-Risk Units (ARUs) in New Zealand prisons; and focuses on the comprehensive inspections of five prison sites.

Summary of findings

  • Of the 18 prisons across the country, 14 have a designated ARU. At-Risk cells at best can be described as sparsely furnished rooms, which are constantly monitored by a live camera-feed, including the unscreened toilet. Staff of either sex, in the course of their work, can observe At-Risk prisoners in various states of undress. Prisoners’ clothing is removed on admission to ARUs and replaced with anti-rip gowns to minimise opportunities for self-harm.
  • Routines within ARUs are similar to the regimes within management/separates units.1 At-Risk prisoners are placed in isolation with limited interaction and therapeutic activities.
  • RU paperwork and directed segregation (for medical oversight) is not always fully completed and lacks specificity and personalisation.
  • Training for staff working in ARUs is basic.
  • Staff interactions with At-Risk prisoners are limited.
  • There were incidences of At-Risk prisoners being restrained on tie-down beds by their legs, arms and chest over prolonged periods.
  • There were incidences of At-Risk prisoners being restrained in waist restraints with their hands cuffed behind their backs.
  • We discovered incidences of tie-down beds and possibly waist restraints being used for behaviour modification purposes at some sites.
  • Prisons were not following their own procedures in respect of the application of mechanical restraints.
  • The interface between Corrections and Regional Forensic Psychiatric Services appears not to be working as effectively as it could. Gaps in service provision were evident.

I consider that the use of the tie-down bed and/or waist restraints in the circumstances of Prisoners A, B, C, D and E2 amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for the purpose of Article 16 of the Convention against Torture. Furthermore, I believe the ability of prison staff to access footage of prisoners undertaking their ablutions constitutes degrading treatment or punishment under Article 16 of the Convention.

Corrections are in part defending what they did as necessary to protect prisoners from their own actions.

RNZ: Call to prosecute guards over tied-down inmate


Leave a comment


  1. NOEL

     /  2nd March 2017

    Ahhhh Article 1 describes torture as “an act by which severe pain or suffering …is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining….information or a confession.”

    That discredits the media cry’s of torture .

    Now let’s examine Article 16.

    “Each State Party shall undertake to prevent…other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture.”

    OK it wasn’t done for punishment so maybe it’s classed as “treatment” stopping someone from killing themselves.

  2. Nelly Smickers

     /  2nd March 2017

    So as Wayne sez, “Who bloody CARES ❓ Nobody, except all those *liberal wet hand-ringing snowflakes*….mainly those whose huge government gravytrain incomes rely on it”.

    Time to harden up people, we’re talking about *deranged crims* here….often the worst of the worst. A danger not only to themselves, but the rest of society. Oh paleeese ❗

    • NOEL

       /  2nd March 2017

      I’m guessing the” worst of the worst” don’t self harm.
      More probably those stood over by the “worst of the worst” do.

      • Nelly Smickers

         /  2nd March 2017

        A lot do though NOEL. There was a patient on our ward a little while back, brought in from Pare….he had nailed his penis to a workbench. He was cuffed to the bed-frame and had a prison-warder with him 24/7. His crime, a *murdering pedo* 😡

        • Anonymous Coward

           /  2nd March 2017

          Sounds like he may have had some help getting that nail through his johnson.

        • NOEL

           /  2nd March 2017

          A pedophile nail his penis to the work bench.
          Would that not be sexual gratification rather than slashing of the wrists?

  1. “Cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” of prisoners — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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