Ministry in charge

Department of Corrections

Prison healthcare is managed by the Corrections Department. Healthcare services provided outside prisons are the responsibility of the local District Health Board.

Every prison facility has a health care unit


Every prison in New Zealand has a medical centre that provides primary healthcare. Inmates are transferred to public hospitals when serious conditions have to be treated.

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 public1.

  1. Parliament Counsel Office, Corrections Act 2004 

Medical care provided is primary healthcare.

Health care is free


A medical examination is performed upon admission


Every person taken into custody by the police must fill out a risk assessment form (Health and Safety Management Plan for Person in Custody). 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).

See Admission and Evaluation for more information.

A medical file is opened upon admission


The SPT report pointed to inconsistencies in record keeping and lack of clarity in the rules relating to confidentiality.

A nicotine replacement therapy is offered to all incoming inmates that smoke1.

  1. New Zealand Drug Foundation, “Smoking bans in prisons - do they work?”, Nov 22nd 2010. 

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.”