Corrections staff fear reprisals for 'narking'

SHANE COWLISHAW
EMPLOYMENT AND JUSTICE REPORTER
Last updated 05:00 16/07/2012

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Corrections Department staff are afraid to report unethical practices within the organisation because they fear reprisals and being called a nark, a survey reveals.

A summary of results from the 2011 annual workplace survey, obtained by The Dominion Post, shows concerns include staff integrity and safety.

The survey cost $92,824, funded mostly by ceasing previous surveys, and was completed by 78 per cent of staff.

When asked whether honesty and integrity were valued in the department, only 65 per cent answered favourably.

Just over half believed they could report unethical behaviour without fear of reprisal, that those concerns would be dealt with appropriately or that Corrections held people accountable for such behaviour. Of those who felt less confident reporting such behaviour, by far the largest proportion said it was a fear of reprisals or the repercussions of reporting something that got in their way.

"Focus groups suggest that staff felt that they would be labelled as a ‘nark', and, interestingly, they believed that it went against the sense of being a team player," the report said.

Questions about safety at work were also an area of concern, with only 69 per cent claiming they felt safe at work overall.

The report said the issue was confined to certain situations, with staff feeling unsafe when on their own during home visits or when in an unknown situation with a prisoner.

Last month, a Rimutaka Prison warden was seriously hurt after going to help a prisoner attacked by fellow inmates.

Department organisational development general manager Vincent Arbuckle said focus groups had been set up in areas of concern after the survey.

These showed that most of the concern related to a belief that problems would not be dealt with properly by managers, rather than any fears about reprisal.

A confidential 0800 phone line was introduced about six weeks ago so staff could report concerns anonymously, but so far only about 10 calls had been made.

The line was part of several initia tives the department had taken to strengthen integrity, including increased pre-employment checks and resources for management.

Regarding staff safety, Mr Arbuckle said it was only natural that Corrections officers felt some fear.

"Overall, people feel very safe but, when you break it up, staff who work with serious offenders in person naturally feel there's times they don't feel safe. On one level, that's not a surprise. I don't know if you'd be human if you didn't at times feel a level of anxiety."

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But it was important staff felt as safe as possible and a self-defence training programme was being finalised. It was likely to be rolled out next month, he said.

Contact Shane Cowlishaw
Employment and justice reporter
Email: shane.cowlishaw@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @scowlishaw

- The Dominion Post

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