Hopes Crown apology is the start of system change in our prisons

Minister of Corrections Hon Kelvin Davis has just issued a public apology to Mihi Bassett, Karma Cripps and other women for harm caused to them in prison, alongside a scathing letter to the Chief Executive of the Department of Corrections.

This comes after sustained advocacy by Amnesty International and others in civil society, investigative journalism, multiple OIA requests, and a stinging ruling from district court judge David McNaughton over Corrections’ inhumane and degrading treatment of people in prison (and multiple violations of their own rules; an Operational Review and multiple other reports outlining serious issues), and the Attorney General getting involved.

Executive Director of Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand Meg de Ronde said an apology was the first step.

"Good on Minister Davis. Acknowledging a wide range of unacceptable failings and publicly apologising to these women for what they were forced to endure was the right thing to do. It’s a huge turnaround for him to clearly say that the purpose of Corrections is to humanise and heal. There’s much more to do."

Meg de Ronde Executive Director Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand

"Last week Amnesty International brought a group of experts to meet directly with the Minister to discuss longstanding concerns. We’re relieved that he is listening.

"We welcome the announcement of a review into various parts of Corrections, including the complaints process, management plans for women and certain processes and protocols. However, we believe any review must not only focus on operational matters, but structural issues across the prison system and for a review to really be effective, it needs to be conducted independently.

"It shouldn’t take the bravery of these women coming forward under horrific circumstances, a 5,500 strong petition, numerous civil society concerns being denied or ignored, and multiple Corrections reviews pointing to a punitive culture to shed light on this case. We have reason to believe there are other cases like this. It is vital that this moment ushers in a new era of transparency across New Zealand’s prison system."

Meg de Ronde Executive Director Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand

"There’s a huge amount of work left to be done. It’s crucial we all act together to ensure the Hōkai Rangi strategy is implemented by 2024. These are systemic issues that demand a systemic response. Positive change requires leadership, funding, resourcing, and crucially - a paradigm shift to change the kaupapa of prisons from a place of punishment to one of rehabilitation...with humanity."