Reports into our prisons show those with lived experience must be heard

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) has released  into the treatment of women in our prisons. I that show the criminal justice system is failing our wāhine. The person ultimately responsible for change, Minister of Corrections Kelvin Davis, needs to respond.

Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand Executive Director Meg de Ronde says the system as is, is causing further harm to people.

“We have reports, reviews and research from the Office of the Inspectorate, the Ombudsman, criminal justice lawyers, international experts, domestic academics, and the Human Rights Commission that all show a growing body of evidence that our criminal justice system is not only failing, but is perpetuating serious human rights concerns time and time again. It’s shameful.”

“We, like most New Zealanders, expect to see an environment that is conducive to rehabilitation and reintegration. People, no matter where they are in society, for whatever reason, deserve dignity and respect and equal opportunity to improve their lives. Right now, our prisons and other facilities are not only falling short of this, they are causing more harm.”

Meg de Ronde, Executive Director Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand

De Ronde says work on the Government’s strategy Wāhine - E rere ana ki te pae hou is welcome, with much potential there, however policy and practice need to link up.

“It’s great to see work underway here but we, along with a number of civil society organisations have been raising these concerns for some time and what seems to be missing is the link between policy and practice on the ground. This means policy isn’t always reflected as it should be in the day-to-day lives of those living and working within our criminal justice system. With the potential of the new strategy, it’s critical that there’s commitment to seeing change through at every level, which means a willingness to doing things differently and listening to those most impacted.”

She says the people who experience the criminal justice system, who can best articulate the parts not working, are not being listened to.

“The best gauge of change is through the people most impacted. We believe people with lived experience are still not being heard. We have recently launched Aotearoa Justice Watch along with JustSpeak and the Council for Civil Liberties to ensure those experiencing issues in the prison and policing system can speak out. This will help to see where the problems are that may be going unaddressed or unheard.”

Meg de Ronde, Executive Director Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand

She adds previous calls to ban harmful practices have largely been ignored.

“While we recognise many of the changes needed will take time, this does not remove responsibility to take immediate action to prevent immediate harm. Practices such as cell buster extractions have no place in our prisons. It has been nearly a year and the Minister Kelvin Davis has still not moved to prohibit cell buster extractions.”