Could New Zealand’s Department of Corrections be a Blueprint for Worldwide Prison Authorities?

In a world where prisoners riot due to privileges being withdrawn, (Tobacco in UK prisons in July 2017), prison officers protest and strike over staffing levels, overcrowding and violent prisoners, (France in January 2018), and where rival gangs in prisons are slaughtering each other, (Brazil in January 2018), the New Zealand Corrections Department has managed to continue to improve the safety of offenders, their families and the wider community through a range of interesting measures. 

New Zealand’s Department of Corrections have an enviable record of significantly improving public safety and reducing re-offending even though there was an increase in prison numbers in 2016/17

100% of News Zealand’s Prisons are “working prisons” where prisoners are trained in 140 business-like industries such as construction, farming, nurseries, forestry, timber processing, furniture making, children toys, textiles, catering, engineering, concrete product manufacturing, printing and laundries.

In 2016/17 there were 2,226 work placements, 1,992 prisoners participated in trade training, 3,894 qualifications were achieved by prisoners while in prison, 1,443 prisoners received intensive literacy and numeracy support, and they referred 1,364 prisoners to an employment support service. In short, more than 10,000 prisoners received improved services to assist them in finding employment, and achieved 91% prisoner engagement in industry, through treatment, learning, and other constructive activities whilst in Prison.

There are 18 operational prisons in New Zealand, 17 of which are directly operated by Corrections, and just one privately managed. The total prison population grew by over 700 in 2016/2017, and in the last two years there has been a 16.7% increase in the prison population, with an additional 30,000 people on community-based sentences. The prison population is forecast to grow between 2017 and 2021, and plans are already in place to tackle this increase, through small scale builds, modular accommodation and a new 1,500 bed facility. However, alongside those plans is a specific strategy to commit to reducing re-offending levels through treatment, reducing the harm from violence and gangs, investing in mental health, alcohol and other drug support, and boosting education and employment opportunities. In 2016/2017 a massive 28% fewer individuals re-offended than 2011.

Prison Staff levels also need to be fit for purpose, and currently there are nearly 9,000 staff, and 1,700 volunteers managing around 40,000 individuals either in prison or serving a sentence in the community, each week. 91% of staff work on the frontline with offenders, 24 hours a day.

All prisons in New Zealand run a “Random Drug Testing Programme” whereby each week, prisoners are selected randomly by computer to be tested for both alcohol and drugs, such as cannabis, heroin, and methamphetamine.  The prison director has no say as to who gets tested, or when, and must ensure that the name of the randomly selected prisoner is not disclosed to any prisoner until he/she is required to produce a urine sample, thus alleviating any chance of tampering of the sample.  Each prisoner selected however, must have spent 30 continuous days in prison, and has more than 10 days left to serve.

Corrections acting national commissioner, Rachel Leota said ‘‘We carry out a considerable amount of work to prevent these risks and stop contraband from entering prisons,’’ she said.‘‘Over the past decade we have a high success rate of detecting contraband.’’

In 2016/17 around 8000 drug tests in New Zealand prisons with just 3.6% of the general random drug tests conducted nationally returning a positive result.

Although the Department of Corrections says the number of prisoners caught using drugs is on the decline, it is constantly looking for new ways to detect contraband before it gets behind the perimeter fence.

However, contraband IS still getting behind the perimeter fence. One way of detecting contraband before it gets into the prison, is the remarkably successful and clever piece of kit from ODSecurity; the SOTER RS Body Scanner.

This ultra-low radiation full body scanner is used successfully at many prisons for scanning visitors and prisoners finding contraband that has been hidden on a person, and more frequently, in, a person.

The SOTER RS offers an extremely simple and fast option, finding non-metallic objects hidden under clothes, in natural cavities or within the human body cannot be detected by conventional metal detectors and typically, these non-detectable items, such as narcotics, tobacco, mobile phones or other contraband, can only otherwise be detected by highly intrusive total body searches.

SOTER RS is successfully deployed in correctional facilities, in airports, detention centres, police and customs facilities worldwide including; Australia, Denmark, Ghana, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, The Netherlands, The United Arab Emirates, The United States of America, The United Kingdom, Chile, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

The SOTER RS makes it impossible to smuggle contraband in or on the human body.

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