Minister must address teen prison lockdown “akin to torture”

The Green Party is demanding that Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga stop the lockdown of teenagers for 23 hours a day in Mt Eden Prison and clarify what Corrections has done about the practice since first alerted to it more than a year ago.

“The latest Ombudsman’s inspection shows young people on remand were being locked in their cells 23 hours a day at Mt Eden – that is akin to torture,” said Green Party Corrections spokesperson David Clendon.

““It is now over a year since the Ombudsman highlighted the extensive solitary confinement of teenage prisoners as being unacceptable, and recommended a dedicated youth unit in Mt Eden prison.

“Given the heightened attention on New Zealand’s prison service over the past year, Sam Lotu-liga has serious questions to answer about how he has allowed the treatment of young people in prison to deteriorate under his watch.

“The Minister needs to explain why this barbaric practice was ever allowed, and whether it has continued since Corrections took back the management of Mt Eden prison from SERCO earlier this year.

“We also need some answers from the Minister as to whether this practice is occurring in other prisons, or is confined to Mt Eden.

“It is normally only the most violent, the most dangerous or high risk prisoners who are kept in their cells for 23 out of 24 hours.

“Minister Lotu-Iiga has sat on his hands in failing to address this issue, just as he did for so long over complaints about SERCO’s mismanagement of Mt Eden prison.

“There’s still no dedicated youth unit or appropriate youth facility, and the hours teenage prisoners are subjected to lockdown has got worse, not better, under his watch.

“If Sam Lotu-Iiga can’t fulfill his obligation as Corrections Minister to ensure our prisons are managed humanely and safely, John Key needs to replace him with someone who can,” Mr Clendon said.

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