The Corrections Minister says he didn’t know prisons “bombed” cells with pepper spray, and is “quite disturbed” about a report it had allegedly been happening at Auckland Women’s prison.
Kelvin Davis said he heard the claims this morning, after RNZ reported inmate Karma Cripps, who is asthmatic, had allegedly had her cell filled with pepper spray multiple times white it was closed.
The report also detailed the practice of “bombing” had happened to at least three other women.
It also reported women in the prison were forced to lie face down on the ground to get food and had to show their used sanitary items to guards as proof before they received more.
“I was quite disturbed with what I’d heard,” Davis said.
“My expectation of Corrections is that every prisoner is treated in accordance with the Corrections Act .”
He said he would be briefed by officials this afternoon about the situation.
As the matter was before the courts, Davis said there were some things he could not speak about.
When 1 NEWS asked whether he was aware of the practice, he said he wasn’t.
Davis said he couldn’t comment whether the practice was acceptable in some circumstances as he hadn’t been fully briefed about the issue.
The practice is said to be used to incapacitate an inmate so guards can remove them from a cell without fear of resistance.
But Tracey McIntosh, a professor of indigenous studies at Auckland University, said the practice of bombing "would not meet the standards of humane or appropriate treatment" of prisoners.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the media reporting she'd seen about the situation “have been disturbing”.
But, she said, she hadn’t yet received an official briefing on the matter.
Green Party corrections and human rights spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman said “abuse” in detention centres undermined the integrity of the justice system and was unacceptable.
“The integrity of our justice system depends on upholding basic human rights and helping those convicted of offending to be rehabilitated and reintegrated successfully into our communities,” she said.
“Prisons should not be a place you go to be tortured. Why on earth are women having to lie face down next to a toilet to receive food?
“Reports of this show shameful levels of deprivation. What is clear is a massive rethink of our system is required.”
Ghahraman called for the establishment of an Independent Prison Inspectorate, which would take over the internal complaints process currently carried about by Corrections.
“Corrections, who are in charge of looking after troubled New Zealanders in often difficult and terse circumstances, behind closed doors, should not be self-regulating and self-evaluating.”