Chief Ombudsman slams excessive use of prisoner restraint

The Chief Ombudsman has condemned prisons' excessive use of restraints and tie-down beds.

The Chief Ombudsman has condemned prisons' excessive use of restraints and tie-down beds.

New Zealand prisons' use of excessive restraint is in breach of the UN Convention Against Torture, Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier says.

Boshier has found the use of tie-down beds and restraints in five separate cases - including one where a self-harming prisoner was restrained for 16 hours a day over 37 consecutive nights - constituted "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment.

Labour says the report has revealed yet another breach from Corrections, and a slide towards "third world conditions".

On Wednesday, Boshier released a report following an investigation into the care and management of prisoners at risk of self-harm. Five prisons were monitored between July 2015 and June 2016.

* Private business, public failure: Inside our prisons
Investigation launched into possible mistreatment of prisoner
More than 90pc of prisoners have suffered mental health or substance use issues

In one of the most extreme cases of restraint, a self-harming prisoner was restrained for 37 consecutive nights; a total of 592 hours.

Stuff Circuit

Chief Ombudsman Judge Peter Boshier talks to Paula Penfold for a Stuff investigation

Prisoner A, as the man was known, was an inmate at Auckland Prison with a history of self-harm who had been admitted to hospital on multiple occasions after injuring himself.

He applied for a transfer to the forensic psychiatric unit the Mason Clinic but after it was refused, he was moved to Auckland Prison's At Risk Unit where prison staff restrained him on a tie-down bed.

Boshier's report found the prisoner was restrained by his wrists, torso and ankles; a form of restraint that breaches New Zealand law.

Corrections is taking steps to improve its practices in the wake of the damning report.

Corrections is taking steps to improve its practices in the wake of the damning report.

While Corrections staff said the man was tied down to prevent wound-tampering and self-harm, he was successfully managed during daytime hours by staff "with no significant episodes of self-harm".

Ad Feedback

"His restraint on the tie-down bed each night coincided with reduced staffing levels."

In another case at Otago Corrections Facility, a prisoner was continuously kept in a waist restraint with his hands cuffed behind his back, after self-harming. The cuffs were used for 12 weeks prior to his release from prison, and were removed for two hours during the day, and every four hours at night.

Stuff Circuit

Keith Galyer's son Ricky died in Auckland prison in 2015.

The prisoner was locked in his cell for 21 hours a day, and did not receive any psychiatric treatment during the 12-week period despite a recommendation.

His medication was stopped upon his imprisonment. As a result, he said his mental health deteriorated and his self-harm escalated.

Corrections chief executive Ray Smith said he took "immediate steps" to review the use of tie-down beds after being alerted by the Ombudsman's Office.

Smith said restraints were intended to be a last resort for prisoners with "extreme and prolific self-harming behaviour" who did not qualify for admission to a mental health unit.

"If Corrections was not able to use a tie-down bed, in cases of extreme self-harm, the risk of self-harm and even death among these prisoners would be increased."

However, he accepted that the use of restraints for Prisoner A  had "crept from being a last option to a tool for managing the prisoner's health and complex behaviours", while two staff had behaved inappropriately.

Corrections chief executive Ray Smith says his department has changed its policies and practices after being informed of ...

Corrections chief executive Ray Smith says his department has changed its policies and practices after being informed of the Ombudsman's findings.

Corrections chief custodial officer Neil Beales said the department did not believe the use of restraints to avoid self-harm was "necessarily degrading or inhumane", but accepted they should be used rarely.

Only 12 prisoners across the country had been restrained on a tie-down bed over the last three years, Beales said, out of 7000 prisoners that had been through an At Risk Unit during that time.

"Let's just be clear - he [Boshier] hasn't said that we've been torturing prisoners…

Labour corrections spokesman Kelvin Davis says he is no longer surprised by negative reports about the conduct of ...

Labour corrections spokesman Kelvin Davis says he is no longer surprised by negative reports about the conduct of Corrections.

"When we say the use of tie-down beds is extreme, it is - it's used extremely rarely, but it is a form of restraint that we recognise is at that very far end of extreme."

Beales said the tie-down beds were never used to punish people or cause further harm, but stop prisoners from harming or trying to kill themselves.

"I would much prefer to have these conversations with you as to why we do these things than to have a conversation with the coroner as to why we don't, because somebody's dead."

While prisoners in the report were exceptionally difficult cases to deal with, Corrections accepted that it had to ensure they were restrained properly and no longer than necessary.

However, Beales said officials still believed restraints were a necessary tool to deal with high-risk prisoners.

"Nobody at this point is saying that we are not going to use tie-down beds if the need arises - what we must make sure is that when we do, our policies and processes are followed as we expect."

Corrections had accepted the majority of the Ombudsman's recommendations and was developing a new work programme with an emphasis on improved training, more multidisciplinary teams for at-risk prisoners, and a greater emphasis on therapy.

Corrections Minister Louise Upston said the department had to learn from the Ombudsman's report and its own investigation, but she was pleased by Smith's "proactive" response and changes to policies.


Labour corrections spokesman Kelvin Davis said "nothing I read about Corrections surprises me anymore".

"There's just a long list of goes on and on and on."

It was "absolutely unacceptable" that a prisoner had been restrained for 16 hours a day, Davis said.

"I can't even imagine only being out of the restraint for eight hours a day - surely Corrections must have better ways to deal with difficult prisoners.

"We're not a third-world country, and...our Corrections system is basically degenerating towards third-world conditions."


Boshier said the general management of at-risk prisoners across the country was substandard and detrimental to their well-being.

"The use of tie-down beds and waist restraints is only lawful in New Zealand prisons as a last resort, and in very prescribed circumstances, to protect prisoners from harming themselves or others. Mechanical restraints must be used in a manner that minimises harm or discomfort to the prisoner and must never be used for disciplinary purposes," Boshier said.

The report found tie-down beds and waist restraints were being used as a threat to force prisoners to comply.

Staff were also not adhering to basic procedures regarding the safe use of restraint, or properly managing paperwork relating to restraint use.

Other issues identified included a lack of staff training, problems with communications between Corrections and Forensic Psychiatric Services, and a lack of intervention by the likes of social workers, therapists, cultural advisors and chaplains.


Lifeline – 0800 543 354

Depression Helpline (8am – 12midnight) – 0800 111 757

Healthline – 0800 611 116

Samaritans –0800 726 666 (available 24/7).

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865

Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email

What's Up (5 – 18 year olds, 1pm – 11pm) – 0800 942 8787

Kidsline (up to 14 years old, 4pm  - 6pm weekdays) – 0800 54 37 54

Mental Health Foundation:

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers

Seymour: A 'disastrous' coalition

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 23:  ACT leader David Seymour arrives to speak to supporters at the Royal New Zealand ...

ACT leader doesn't mince words about likely marriage between National and NZ First after election night "massacre".

Roads, houses, health for Auckland

National and Labour both made big infrastructure promises to Auckland.

Despite pitching himself as the steady economic hand on the wheel, Bill English skillfully threw just enough lollies to win over Aucklanders.

Lucy Lawless: Screen witch and nightclub diva

Quintessential brunette Lucy Lawless donned a wig for our photo shoot. "I'm a bit of a rough diamond."

She may have made the big-time, but she's a self-described "rough diamond" whose star power hardly shines at home.

So you want to be a writer?

'Five hundred words a day is doable for most people.'


Hutt South turns blue

Chris Bishop with his partner Jenna Raeburn at the Queen of Jackson pub in Petone after a hotly contested inaugural ...

Chris Bishop takes Hutt South by wooing Wainui.

Capital painted red video

Wellington City deputy mayor Paul Eagle comfortably won the Rongotai seat with 16,983 votes.

Wellington's electoral candidates painted the capital red on Saturday night.

Wellington pummel Waikato

Sam Lousi scoring for Wellington against Waikato.

Ruthless Lions score five tries to one and pile more misery on Mooloos with dominant display.

Opportunity lost for Morgan

Gareth Morgan called on the Green Party to join National in the new government, rather than represent the environment ...

The Opportunities Party evidence-based populism fails to give chief Gareth Morgan any seats in Parliament.


Webb's in, Wagner's out video

Labour's victorious Christchurch Central candidate Duncan Webb shares a moment with Port Hills MP Ruth Dyson at the ...

Canterbury remains relatively static from the 2014 election – except for one important seat.

Live: Election night

Winston Peters is deciding the next government.

There's been no clear result. NZ First's Winston Peters faces a choice: support National or join a Labour-Green bloc.

Two robberies in 15 minutes

Police officers attended robberies at two Christchurch shops on Saturday night.

Knife-weilding man robs dairy of cash soon after man steals money from another shop.

New shops and foodcourt planned

A new foodcourt and seating areas for diners will be added at the southern end of Northlands mall.

Christchurch's Northlands Mall is planning to embark on another extension.


Mahuta romps home

Nanaia Mahuta took at swipe at the Maori Party after she crushed them in the Hauraki Waikato electorate.

Māori Party no competition for Labour's Nanaia Mahuta in the Hauraki-Waikato electorate.

Hamilton backs blue video

Hamilton East National MP David Bennett receives congratulations from Hamilton East Labour candidate Jamie Strange after ...

It's a clean sweep for National in Hamilton, with David Bennett and Tim Macindoe fending off two Labour rookies.

A timely drop in Waikato's 'ocean'

Eliza Webster, who commutes twice weekly to Auckland for university, is counting on a commuter rail between Auckland, ...

National's spending promises are timely for the growing Waikato and Bay of Plenty.

First-time MP romps in

Tim van de Molen says he is more than up to the challenges ahead of him.

National Waikato candidate Tim van de Molen won the Waikato seat with ease.


Tamati tackled short of line


Howie Tamati, M??ori Party candidate for Te Tai Hau??uru watches the results come ...

Touted as a possible kingmaker before the election, Howie Tamati trailed in his electorate, as Māori Party faces possible oblivion.

Young keeps NP seat

Jonathan Young, with wife Maura, at the election party held at The Plymouth Hotel.

National's Jonathan Young has retaken seat with 49.7% of the vote.

Kuriger ready for next three years

Re-elected Taranaki-King Country MP Barbara Kuriger, middle, with supporters at Te Awamutu Golf Club on election night.

Taranaki King Country MP Barbara Kuriger said she will work to bridge the gap between the rural urban divide

National keeps Borrows' seat

National MP Nathan Guy has kept his Ōtaki seat, easily.

The city had been in the safe hands of four-term National MP Chester Borrows.


Winners are grinners video

Ian McKelvie is the National candidate for the Rangītikei electorate.

National candidate Ian McKelvie has won Rangitīkei comfortably.

Fourth time around

Iain Lees-Galloway has easily won the Palmerston North seat for the fourth time.

Labour's Iain Lees-Galloway has emphatic election win in Palmerston North.

Ōtaki, Whanganui staying blue

National MP Nathan Guy has kept his Ōtaki seat, easily.

Nathan Guy and Harate Hipango set to retain electorates for National.

Tamati tackled short of line

Te Tai Hauauru Maori Party candidate Howie Tamati with supporter Jack Niwa

Touted as a possible kingmaker before the election, Howie Tamati trails in his electorate.


Smiths wins Nelson, O'Connor takes West Coast-Tasman


Rachel Boyack, Labour Part candidate concedes to Nick Smith, Nelson MP ...

Nelson and West Coast Tasman MPs retained their seats.

Death of a gentleman

Ron Brinsdon, pictured in 2005, on his dawn can collection run in Hardy St. He and a friend would flatten the cans and ...

Homeless man Ron Brinsdon died after collapsing in Nelson. Behind the familiar face was a hidden story.

WOW tribute to late designer

The Art of New York City created by Martin de Ruyter, Karen Stade and Troy Stade, modelled by Nicole Gibson.

The memory of a young designer who took out the World of WearableArt Awards top prize is being kept alive in a garment at this year's finals.

Close race tipped in Nelson

Nelson MP Nick Smith at his election campaign launch party at the Trafalgar ...

Three Nelson candidates give their verdicts on the campaign.


Freight hub to keep trucking

The container transfer site was upgraded to a 24/7 freight hub in a matter of days after the earthquake.

After the earthquake, they started working 24/7 loading and unloading more than 100 trucks a day.

Smith cleans up

National's Stuart Smith has been re-elected in Kaikōura.

Stuart Smith wins easily in Kaikōura

Grants help unlock walkways

NZ Walking Access Commission chief executive Eric Pyle walks Daltons Track between Daltons Bridge and Pelorus Bridge. ...

Kiwi's love of the outdoors is being supported by cash as more funding for walkway access is up for grabs.

Next 'cultural treasure'

Weaver and artist Peg Moorhouse says it is important to recognise the great talent in Marlborough.

"Extraordinary", "inspiring" and "significant" are just some of the criteria for the Living Cultural Treasure Award.

South Canterbury

Dean comfortably wins Waitaki

National Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean addresses her supporters at an election night function at the Oamaru Opera House after ...

Jacqui Dean wins a fifth term in Parliament

Falloon takes seat video

Green Party candidate Mojo Mathers watches the first results come in with members of her campaign team, from left, Ray ...

National's Andrew Falloon has won the Rangitata seat, but National's majority is down.

Hydro 'dangerous'

Timaru's Hydro Grand Hotel has been assessed as being a dangerous building likely to cause injury or death.

Damning report says Hydro Grand is dangerous, likely to cause injury or death.

Time to spring forward

Butcher Jim Bower's early mornings will be even darker and busier when Daylight Saving kicks in on Sunday.

Dust off the barbecue, it's time for long evenings as Daylight Savings starts.


Revealing ancient and heavenly stories at Cardrona

Cardrona astronomy guide Alex Thom peers through Cardrona's new telescope.

Cardrona Alpine Resort is reaching for the skies with its new visitor attraction.

Flames beat back rescuers

The fire was in one unit in a block of four.

Neighbours reportedly tried to rescue the occupant of a Dunedin flat where a person died overnight.

Woman rescued, police thank app

A Christchurch woman was found on Ben Lomond, near Queenstown, about 12am on Friday.

A Christchurch woman was rescued from a Queenstown mountain after her husband tracked her location through a phone app.

Eyes to the sky in Alexandra

Neil Sutherland, who lives at the Alexandra Airport at his hanger, will be displaying his home-built plane at the Wings ...

It's not every day planes down the main street of Alexandra.


Live: NZ Election

Winston Peters is deciding the next government.

Who will lead the next government? It's Winston Peters' decision, as New Zealand First holds the balance of power. But Peters isn't rushing to decide, as Bill English lines up to try and win him over.

South's election night

It was all smiles for Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie, pictured here with her husband Mark Billcliff.

Invercargill will have two MPs in Parliament, Labour's Liz Craig and National's Sarah Dowie.

Craig will become Labour list MP

Invercargill Labour Candidate Dr Liz Craig is set to become a list MP after the 2017 general election.

Invercargill Labour candidate Dr Liz Craig lost the battle for the Invercargill electorate seat but will still become an MP.

Ria Bond to leave parliament

NZ First Invercargill candidate Ria Bond with her father Ariki Hoterene-Shortland at the Kelvin Hotel in Invercargill.

There were tears of disappointment for former MP Ria Bond.

Ad Feedback