ANOTHER INMATE has been found dead at maximum-security Paremoremo Prison – and again it’s on Corrections’ watch.
Just months after taking over the management of Mt Eden Corrections Facility from private company Serco following allegations of prisoner mistreatment, Corrections is now facing questions of its own after the suicide of another inmate at one of the prisons it runs.
The death is another black mark against the prison service, and further evidence that more needs to be done in the field of suicide prevention not only in private prisons but also in state-run ones as well.
In this latest case, a Paremoremo inmate committed suicide on Monday after swallowing a watch battery.
Three weeks ago the inmate had slit his wrists and was taken to the prison hospital.
A source said Corrections had refused to clean all the blood from the man’s cell for over a week, claiming it was a ‘crime scene’.
“We had to look at it and smell it,” the source said.
“Corrections were clearly on notice of the guy’s high suicide risk. How much longer will these preventable deaths continue in New Zealand prisons?”
It was only six weeks go that prison guards found a member of the Headhunters gang dead in his cell on the top of Paremoremo’s B block landing.
Prison sources say the man had hung himself.
Over the past five financial years there have been 88 suicide attempts behind bars.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison had the worst record, registering 13 suicide attempts over the five years. That was followed by 11 suicide attempts at Auckland Prison, and eight each at Christchurch Men’s Prison, Christchurch Women’s Prison and Waikeria Prison.
Only four facilities registered zero suicide attempts – Invercargill Prison, Rolleston Prison, Tongariro/Rangipo Prison and Wellington Prison.
There were five suicide attempts at the Mt Eden Corrections Facility.
In a recent interview, Corrections National Commissioner Jeremy Lightfoot claimed the department was doing everything it could to stop inmates from killing themselves behind bars.
He said the department was committed to preventing suicide in prison, but noted prisoners had a high risk of mental health disorders which made dealing with the problem a challenge.
‘In order to understand and address a prisoner’s medical condition, we conduct health screenings when a prisoner is received into prison and when they are transferred into prisons,” he said.
But he conceded Corrections would never be able to completely prevent suicides.
“Despite our efforts to reduce suicide and self-harm in prison it is incredibly difficult to stop someone who is determined to harm themselves.”
Over the past five years there have been 35 unnatural deaths in custody, which include murders and suicides. The deaths were spread among 14 prisons.
The only facilities not to record any unnatural deaths for the period were Arohata Prison, Auckland Region Women’s Prison, Rolleston Prison and Tongariro/Rangipo Prison.
Seven out of the 35 deaths – or 20 percent – were at Christchurch Men’s Prison. There were five deaths at Rimutaka Prison, and three each at Auckland Prison, Northland Region Corrections Facility, Waikeria Prison and Whanganui Prison.
Despite recent public concerns about the Mt Eden Corrections Facility, there has only been one unnatural death registered there since Serco took over management.
Stephen Cook is a multi award winning journalist and former news editor and assistant editor of the Herald on Sunday.