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Prison upgrades ‘in due course’

Friday December 21, 2018 Written by Published in Crime
Prison upgrades ‘in due course’

Many of the recommendations made by the McDermott and Matapo report into the Cook Islands prison service will require investment by government.

 

That’s according to Justice minister George Angene’s chief executive, Terry Rangi, who says the minister is “aware” of the report’s recommendations relating specifically to prison services.

Asked for Angene’s response to a story in Monday’s CINews which aired Demo parliamentary leader Junior Maoate’s views on prison reform, Rangi, who was speaking on Angene’s behalf, said implementing the recommendations would require spending on items such as equipment, training for staff and a review of all policies and procedures relating to programmes run by the prison.

 “This will happen in due course.”

Implementation of the report’s recommendations couldn’t be done in isolation, as some development work was being carried out by the New Zealand Department of Corrections following their scoping of the prison service two months ago. This would continue in the new year, Rangi added.

Maoate also attacked Maggie’s performance as minister of Corrective Services, mentioning in particular the recent row over the minister’s role in influencing the release of a man imprisoned for a violent crime.

He said that rather than focus his energies on the prisoner, Maggie should have had consideration for the victim and family. He added that he should also have done something constructive for Corrective Services by initiating the implementation of the recommendations made in the McDermott- Matapo report.

“That should be his priority as minister. The bigger picture is far more important to see our prison services upgraded and resourced, officers undergo proper and regular training and all procedures relating to work release programmes reviewed and updated,” Maoate said.

However, Rangi said Angene was still learning that his role needed to be at the strategic and policy level.

“That will come in time rather than the day-to-day hands-on approach that he is used to.” 

The more appropriate person to talk to about issues relating to the prison service was the newly-appointed HOM for Corrective Services, Tai Joseph, Rangi added.

“He has been in this role for a short time and is establishing his office, arranging his budget and recruiting staff.”

CINews has been told that some New Zealand Department of Corrections staff who visited Arorangi Prison were shocked at conditions there.

At the time of the McDermott-Matapo report, issued in 2017 following a triple shooting on the island, one person familiar with the prison told CINews that in his opinion, the jail did not meet the United Nations’ minimum requirements for the humane housing of prisoners.

The 64-page report made 47 recommendations, seven of which required substantial funding, while others were said to be easier to implement under existing framework.

After considering the report, the government approved implementation of a response plan, but in spite of the public outrage that had followed the shootings, it seems little was done to improve security and living conditions at the prison.

The report’s more costly recommendations included replacing the existing prison with a “modern and more humane building”, doubling the number of prison wardens, equipping them with uniforms, batons and handcuffs, installing new fire-fighting equipment in the prison, introducing a new fully equipped police Tactical Support Unit to deal with armed offenders and developing an electronic alert system for emergencies.

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