Report clears prison staff of corruption

The Corrections Department is extending a probe into an allegation of corruption at Christchurch Men’s Prison, while clearing staff of any wrongdoing over five other allegations.

The department would not reveal what its ongoing inquiry into one allegation involves, but chief executive Barry Matthews said there was no current evidence to implicate any Prison Services staff in corrupt activity.

A Corrections officer lodged a complaint last year, which raised 25 issues, of which six potentially amounted to corrupt behaviour.

One of the complaints alleged failure by prison managers to take action against a female staff member who was having an inappropriate relationship with a prisoner.

An inquiry by the department’s new professional standards unit (PSU) found no evidence to warrant continued investigation into that and four other issues.

But “sufficient concern” was raised to continue probing the remaining allegation and the PSU was working with Prison Services staff to gather intelligence, said Mr Matthews.

“This will be a long term inquiry and it is unlikely to be resolved in the next six months. I will not comment further on this issue until this has been completed.”

The officer complained in September last year. The PSU decided that prison management did not act in a corrupt or negligent manner in managing the case of the female staff member who had the inappropriate relationship with a prisoner.

However, it did identify “significant shortcomings” in the way the case was dealt with.

Southern regional prison management said the staff member had been sacked, but it acknowledged that formal performance action against her could have been started earlier.

The Corrections officer also alleged that a staff member had inappropriate contact with gang members and was allowing them to carry out illegal behaviour in the prison.

But the PSU found there was no evidence of inappropriate contact, “apart from the partaking of biscuits” with prisoners.

Other allegations involved a staff member providing prisoners with a bottle of whisky, manipulated rosters and a threat against the Corrections officer.

Mr Matthews said the inquiry came after four officers were dismissed from the prison for serious misconduct, including corrupt behaviour.

The latest report found no evidence of wrongdoing or corrupt behaviour by officers at the prison, but he said the staff member had raised “genuine and honestly-held concerns”.

He said the report did conclude that management of some issues could have been better.

“A structural review of Prison Services, completed last year, has already rectified many of the issues identified by providing additional management support.

“This will better enable regional and prison managers to manage poor staff performance and to address any serious concerns by staff.”

A report earlier this year found some corrupt activity involving staff at Upper Hutt’s Rimutaka Prison had occurred, but no evidence of systemic corruption.

Mr Matthews said today there was always the potential for corruption in prisons because “every day our staff manage some of the most manipulative people in society. Prisoners will not think twice in trying to compromise staff to engineer a situation to their advantage.

“Unfortunately there will always be a few individuals who succumb to the challenges of working in this type of environment, however the public can be reassured that the overwhelming majority of staff do their job professionally and with integrity.”



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