Prison staff encouraged to eat with inmates

Southern prison management says the practice of staff eating food with prisoners is encouraged.

In a Department of Corrections inquiry into allegations of corruption at Christchurch Men’s Prison, a Corrections officer alleged a staff member had inappropriate contact with gang members.

But the department’s professional standards unit, which investigated the claim, said that there was no evidence of this, “apart from the partaking of biscuits with prisoners.”

In his response to the report, Corrections southern regional manager Paul Monk said staff consuming food with prisoners was an important component of building rapport and maintaining ongoing communications with them.

“Prison Service has strict rules which preclude staff from eating prisoner meals, but we would encourage staff to identify opportunities for communicating with prisoners in less formal settings and eating their respective food together is one of those opportunities.”

He said it was just one of many situations in which staff had “very close and personal contact” with prisoners.

The service provided training to staff so that appropriate boundaries with prisoners were maintained and this meant any potential risks of sharing food were managed and that the relationship with prisoners was fully professional.

The PSU said the practice should be subject to clear guidelines and should not create unnecessary opportunity for abuse by either party or to create any perception of bias.



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