Date of the report

Daily life

Cells have a bed with a mattress and linen, a toilet and a basin, a personal desk and some shelves. Around 30% of the prison population is double bunked (meaning that two prisoners share a single sized cell).

The Department of Corrections made public its intention to increase the number of double-bunking cells to deal with the rapidly growing prison population. This policy has been criticised by human rights organizations such as The Salvation Army and No Pride in Prison. The latter fear that double-bunking cells might expose transgender prisoners to sexual assault.

The South Auckland Correctional Facility (Wiri) put telephones and computers inside cells. The computers are fixed to a desk and do not have access to the internet. The screen also works as a TV. Prisoners can work or study from cells, arrange visits and book medical appointments.

The Prison Operations Manual specifies that each prisoner be provided with at least three meals per day. It is possible to request a vegetarian or vegan menu. Medical diets are provided for if requested by a medical officer.

Breakfast should not be served more than 14 hours after the evening meal. According to the UN Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture (SPT), this rule is not respected in all prisons. In some prisons, dinner is served at 15.30 and breakfast at 8.30, which leaves prisoners without food for 17 hours.

Even though the Standard Guidelines for Prison Facilities in Australia and New Zealand (1990) recommends that two hot meals should be provided in a 24-hour period, the Prison Operations Manual specifies only one.

Food costs are budgeted at $5.30 per day per prisoner.

The Prison Operations Manual says that prison menus are developed in consultation with a qualified dietician to ensure they fit both legislation and the Ministry of Health’s food and nutrition guidelines. However, the SPT showed concern over the low nutritional value of meals provided: "Breakfast and lunch were monotonous, the latter invariably (in the experience of the SPT) comprising three thin white bread sandwiches, and a piece of fruit."1

Inmates can subsidise their meals by purchasing groceries in the weekly shopping system but prisoners complain about the high prices, limited choice and lack of healthy items. After a prison riot at Spring Hill Prison in 2012, prisoners were only allowed to buy two pieces of fruit per day and seven per week. Friends and family are not allowed to bring food items unless they have a written permission of the prison manager.

Prisoners can complain about the quality of the food to the Chief Executive of the Department of Corrections. In response to a complaint from an inmate in 2011, Corrections Minister Judith Collins replied "[i]f he was so worried about the food in prison, he had choices in his life. One of them was to not commit crime to end up in prison for long stretches. Hopefully before committing any other crimes, he would like to remember the food he found so boring and tasteless."2


  1. UN Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture, CAT/OP/NZL/1, May 2014, p. 18 

  2. "Stay out of trouble if you don't like prison food – Collins" in Stuff, May 27th 2011 

The Prisons Operation Manual specifies that each cell must have access to a hand-washing sink with running water and a working toilet. Shower facilities will be made available on a daily basis. There must be access to hot water.

Upon arrival, each prisoner receives a basic kit that includes: toothpaste, a toothbrush, soap, a 60ml shampoo, a comb, a ballpoint pen, paper and envelopes and, for females, sanitary supplies. The prison administration also provides each prisoner with a pair of trousers and a pair of shorts, one tracksuit, one shirt, underwear and socks. Once sentenced; prisoners can bring in their own items. Women can bring five bras of their own. The prison administration does not guarantee that they will provide the right bra size.

Cleaning products are available to prisoners who are responsible for cleaning their own cells. Unit staff collect bedding and clothing to be laundered on selected days. Bed linen is to be changed once a week.

Unit staff also ensure that waste is disposed of in an appropriate and timely manner in containers supplied, and that waste containers are emptied and cleaned on a regular basis by the prisoner in charge of waste disposal.

Section 75 of the Corrections Act 2004 outlines the right for every prisoner to receive medical treatment that is reasonably necessary. It also states that standard of the health care service provided should be "reasonably equivalent to the standard of health care available to the public"1.

Every prison has a medical centre that provides primary healthcare. Inmates are transferred to public hospitals when serious conditions have to be treated. Prison healthcare is managed by the Corrections Department. Healthcare services provided outside prisons are the responsibility of the local District Health Board.

The Corrections Department enacted a comprehensive smoking ban inside all prisons in July 2011. A nicotine replacement therapy is offered to all incoming inmates that smoke2.

Every person taken into custody by the police must fill out a risk assessment form (Health and Safety Management Plan for Person in Custody). The police officers then centralize all information in electronic records. They must decide whether the person is at risk of suicide or self-harm or not. Police staff and Corrections officers believe they are not properly trained to carry out this activity correctly.

Prevalence of mental health disorders are five times higher in the prison population than in the general population. All prisons have psychiatric medication available but inmates that have to seek specialist mental health care are referred to the District Health Boards. The SPT showed concern that not all inmates "received timely and adequate treatment and the provision and availability of health care staff, health premises and equipment varied widely across the facilities visited […] the current capacity of the system to properly address the mental health of persons in detention does not match the actual needs." The SPT report pointed to inconsistencies in record keeping and lack of clarity in the rules relating to confidentially.


  1. Parliament Counsel Office, Corrections Act 2004  

  2. New Zealand Drug Foundation, "Smoking bans in prisons - do they work?", Nov 22nd 2010. 

Religious organizations such as Prison Fellowship and the Christian Community Agency visit prisoners and organize pastoral care and bible sessions.

Other external participants, who have access to prisons include: members of parliament, volunteers, protected persons, legal advisers, enforcement officers/statutory visitors and the Ombudsman.

Many organisations are involved in re-integrative services to prisoner’s, assisting them getting back to community. Including Prison Chaplaincy Service of Aotearoa Ne Zealand, Prisoner’s Aid and Rehabilitation Society.

Community Law Centres, based in all major regions of the country, provide free legal assistance to offenders that do not have means to pay for defence.

Inmates cannot use cash inside prisons. Upon arrival, all money is taken away and placed in a trust account . Relatives transfer money via the post office or deposit cash, money orders or cheques during visiting times. Electronic transfers can be made after contacting the prison trust clerk.

Prisoners can have a maximum $200 in their bank accounts at a time and spend a maximum $70 per week. They can hire a TV or purchase groceries, toiletries, phone cards, stamps and confectionary items.

The Prison and Victim’s Claims Act 2005 establishes that prisoners’ salaries be used to pay compensations to victims if this forms part of their sentence. This legislation also prevents inmates from demanding compensation for harm caused to them.

Prisoners can access welfare funds via the Welfare and Entertainment Fund. Money allocated depends on the discretion of the prison’s director.

Prisoners who have served more than 30 days and are not to be released from prison within ten days may be required to take a drug test (for illicit drugs or alcohol). If the test is positive the prisoner will face disciplinary sanctions.

Searches should be conducted at reasonable times. They include pat-down searches, scanner searchers and cell searches. Strip searches (mouth, nose, ears, anal, and genital areas) can only be conducted when the prisoner enters or leaves the prison (including transfers to court) and when there are reasonable grounds to believe something is hidden inside his body. The Committee against Torture showed concern over the wide variety of circumstances for which is possible to conduct strip searches1. The officer conducting the search must be of the same sex as the prisoner and must be accompanied of an officer of the same sex.

Prisoners can be sentenced to cell confinement according to the section 69 of the Corrections Art 2004. Visits, calls, and the right to participate in activities may be denied during cell confinement.

Solitary confinement cells, called Management Units, specially those of Mount Eden Correctional Facility, were criticised by the SPT in its last report for having a "deplorable hygienic state". The SPT found the Management Cells in the Auckland Maximum Security prisons extremely small -comparing them to a ‘tin-can’ and criticising the constant CCTV surveillance. The exercise yard was "a small cage that offered no opportunity for exercise at all". The SPT was informed of the fact that, at the time, 24 more cells were to be constructed. The SPT concluded that cell confinement for long periods of time amounted ill-treatment2. It is important to note that Mount Eden has not been managed by Serco since July 2015 (See Premises).


  1. UN Committee against Torture, CAT/C/NZL/CO/6, p. 4 

  2. UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture, CAT/OP/NZL/1, May 2014, p. 17