New reports, government strategy and consultation on prison
Fri 19 Nov 2021
A number of reports and a new strategy have been published related to women in prisons in Aotearoa New Zealand. In addition, the Justice sector is consulting on a briefing on imprisonment.
The Department of Corrections has announced a new women's strategy. The strategy was launched alongside the public release of three reports from the independent Corrections Inspectorate focused on women in prisons. The NZ Human Rights Commission has also published a new report on women in segregated housing in prisons across Aotearoa New Zealand. Lastly, Justice Sector agencies are inviting feedback on a Long-Term Insights Briefing on imprisonment.
New women's strategy for Corrections
The Department of Corrections launched Wāhine - E rere ana ki te pae hou (2021), the organisation’s new women’s strategy for 2021-2025. In the overview of the strategy it states "This strategy aims to reduce reoffending through gender and culturally responsive programmes and services that provide holistic support. It will also achieve this by ensuring our workforce, at all levels, works in ways that respond to the unique needs of women." The media release notes that the strategy was developed in consultation with wāhine Māori, including women with lived experience of the justice system, whānau, service providers, staff and a range of agencies and iwi organisations.
In announcing the Strategy, Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis said "The current prison system is male-focused, a one-size-fits-all approach.” He went on to say "Many women in prison have had extremely complex pasts, often being the victims of violence and abuse themselves. We need to make sure we are giving them the best opportunity to rehabilitate their lives while keeping the community safe."
Reports on women in prison
At the same time, three reports have been released by the independent Corrections Inspectorate. The reports were prompted by a complaint in February 2020, from a lawyer representing three women at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility. As the investigation got underway the Inspectorate broadened the focus to all three women's prisons and a thematic inspection of the lived experiences of women in prisons.
The single over-arching recommendation by the Chief Inspector of Corrections in the Thematic Report: The Lived Experience of Women in Prison (2021) is:
"The Department must review the strategic and operational leadership, resourcing, operating model and service delivery across the women’s prison network (including health services) to enable, and deliver, better outcomes for women, which are critically gender specific, culturally responsive and trauma informed."
The Human Rights Commission (HRC) has published the report, First Do No Harm: Segregation, Restraint and Pepper Spray use in women’s prisons in New Zealand (2021). HRC commissioned Dr Sharon Shalev of the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford to write the report. Dr Sharon Shalev, Awatea Mita and Professor Tracey McIntosh spoke during a webinar to launch the report.
Consultation to develop briefing on imprisonment
Justice sector agencies are inviting feedback to help develop a Justice Sector Long-term Insights Briefing on imprisonment. The consultation notes:
"This Briefing is an opportunity to understand more about what shapes the prison population and what drives the outcomes for those who have been imprisoned. This understanding will enable a deeper discussion about imprisonment that will inform future policy options.
The Briefing will build on what we already know about this subject through extensive public consultation and research over several decades."
There are two phases for the consultation. This first phase involves an online survey with 13 questions.
The closing date to give feedback on this phase is 30 November 2021.
A draft briefing will be developed from the feedback from the first phase. In early 2022, there will be a second phase of consultation on the draft briefing. The final Briefing is expected to be presented to Parliament in 2022. The consultation notes the Briefing "...will be available to government and the public as a resource and evidence base to help improve our future prison system."
Long-term Insights Briefings are a new government initiative requiring agencies to develop and share insights on the trends, risks and opportunities that affect or may affect Aotearoa New Zealand. The Public Service Act 2020 introduced this initiative which requires government department chief executives to publish a Long-term Insights Briefing at least once every three years. The Briefings are not government policy.
This is the first Justice Sector Long-Term Insights Briefing. The focus on imprisonment was chosen by the Justice Sector Leadership Board and Ināia Tonu Nei (a name shared by a kaupapa, a hui, a report and a group of kaitiaki with a goal to reform the Justice system). The Justice Sector Leadership Board includes the Secretary for Justice, NZ Police, Department of Corrections, Oranga Tamariki, Serious Fraud Office and Crown Law Office.
For more information about the intersection of women who have been victims of family and/or sexual violence and prisons see the following:
Women’s imprisonment and domestic, family and sexual violence: research synthesis (2020), published by Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety (ANROWS)
Prison as Destiny? Descent or Dissent? (2020) by Tracey McIntosh and Maja Curcic in Neo-Colonial Injustice and the Mass Imprisonment of Indigenous Women
He rau murimuri aroha: wāhine Māori insights into historical trauma and healing (2019), published by Te Atawhai o Te Ao: Independent Māori Institute for Environment & Health
Wāhine Māori: keeping safe in unsafe relationships (2019) by Denise Wilson, Alayne Mikahere-Hall, Juanita Sherwood, Karina Cootes, and Debra Jackson, published by Taupua Waiora Research Centre
Thinking differently in order to see accurately: explaining why we are convicting women we might otherwise be burying (2019) presented by Julia Tolmie
Social entrapment: a realistic understanding of the criminal offending of primary victims of intimate partner violence (2018) by Julia Tolmie, Rachel Smith, Jacqueline Short, Denise Wilson and Julie Sach, published in the New Zealand Law Review
New Zealand prisoners' prior exposure to trauma (2017) by Marianne Bevan, published in Practice: the New Zealand Corrections Journal
Māori and Prison in The Palgrave Handbook of Australian and New Zealand Criminology (2017), by Tracey McIntosh and Kim Workman Crime and Justice
Behind the wire: Māori women and prison (2016) by Tracey McIntosh, presented at the Women's Studies Association of Aotearoa New Zealand (WSANZ) conference