Officers look up prisoner’s anus – 84 times in three weeks.

Kim Dotcom recently spent a month on remand in Mt Eden prison after the Solicitor General bowed to pressure to have him extradited to the United States.   The police took away his cars and froze his bank accounts.  In prison, Corrections took away his blankets and deprived him of sleep – they woke him up every two hours. Dotcom said he was treated like a convicted criminal – as if depriving convicted criminals of sleep was a legitimate practice.

Sleep deprivation cells

It’s not legitimate. Sleep deprivation was declared illegal under Article 3 of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. New Zealand signed the convention in 1985.  Then there’s Section 5 of the Corrections Act (2004) which requires the Department to ensure prisons are “operated in accordance with rules (and regulations) in this Act and… are based, amongst other matters, on the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.”   Rule 31 states:  “All cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments shall be completely prohibited.”

The management of Corrections just ignore all this – sleep deprivation is a deliberate and daily practice in New Zealand prisons. What’s worse, it’s reserved primarily for those who are least able to cope with it – prisoners who are suicidal and psychologically vulnerable. The Corrections Department even has special cells for suicidal prisoners with camera surveillance 24/7 so the prisoner can be observed at all times – including on the toilet.  Anything the prisoner might use to commit suicide is taken away; they’re not allowed underwear, clothes, sheets or blankets – in case they rip them up to use as a rope.  All they get to wear is a canvas tunic. It’s so tough it can’t be ripped – and it’s very uncomfortable.

Throughout the night, the lights come on automatically every 30 minutes, so staff can see if the prisoner is doing anything – other than sleeping.  Euphemistically, the Department calls these ‘At Risk’ cells. In reality, they’re Sleep Deprivation cells and Corrections has 160 of them.

The naked squat

Sleep deprivation is not the only breach of UN Rule 31.  Another is ‘the naked squat’. I heard about this from a prisoner who spent a weekend in these so-called ‘At Risk’ cells. Immediately after being sentenced, he was taken to the Receiving Office at Rimutaka prison. There he was told to strip naked in front of four officers, and crouch down so the cheeks of his bum spread apart. Two officers got down and looked up his anus – to see whether he had a cell phone, drugs or other contraband hidden up there. Then he had to stand and hold up his penis and scrotum so they could see if he was hiding anything under his genitals. Finally they looked under his armpits and into his mouth.

After this inspection, the prisoner was asked: “How are you feeling?”  He replied: “A bit delicate.” That was enough to warrant a trip to the ‘At Risk’ cells.  Two officers escort him, and hand him over to another set of officers – who tell him to strip off once again. He protests – somewhat timidly – saying he’s just been searched five minutes ago. But it’s in the rules. All prisoners being admitted to the At Risk/Sleep Deprivation cells have to be searched.  So once again, he strips off and does ‘the naked squat’ while more officers eagerly examine every orifice.

In the morning, he’s taken to the shower block – where pretty much everything he does can be observed. Once he’s brought back to his cell, he has to do the squat again.  Then he’s taken to a different cell to have breakfast. He asks why? No one seems to know. After breakfast, he’s brought back and once again, the officers examine his anus and genitals. The same thing happens after lunch and after dinner. He’s required to perform ‘the naked squat’ every time he comes back to his cell. Why? Because he’s a prisoner, a species less than human, and it’s in the rules. In the course of one weekend, he had to spread his cheeks 11 times.

Another extremely vulnerable prisoner was kept in these Sleep Deprivation cells for three weeks. Imagine that – anxious and suicidal, nothing to do, no TV, no distractions for three weeks on end – except the lights turning on and off all night; and nothing to look forward to except the intense embarrassment of performing the naked squat in front of prison officers who want to examine every orifice four times a day. Don’t forget, this is all happening in a secure environment where the prisoner has no contact with the outside world – where it is simply not possible to find anything to put up your arse, except perhaps a piece of soap from the shower.  But why would you want to do that? This prisoner endured this indignity four times a day for three weeks – that’s 84 times. How degrading is that?

Anal analysis

The ideal treatment for depressed or suicidal patients would generally include emotional support, counselling and/or antidepressant medication. For such patients, getting a good night’s sleep is paramount.  Treatment should focus on improving the prisoner’s state of mind.

But the prisoner is not really human. He’s barely an animal, so the treatment is focused on his anus – and keeping him awake for days on end. This is an appalling abuse of power – and a breach of the Corrections Act and United Nations Conventions.  Dotcom was right. He was tortured. When this sort of abuse happens in other countries, Amnesty International and a few academics are quick to point out the perpetrators. Meanwhile, the abuse of sleep deprived prisoners in New Zealand has been going on for years.  The Corrections Department is obsessed with this anal analysis  – unfortunately, the rest of us don’t seem to give a shit.

Roger Brooking

Author of Flying Blind – How the justice system perpetuates crime and the Corrections Department fails to correct

11 thoughts on “Officers look up prisoner’s anus – 84 times in three weeks.

  1. And one more little annoying/degrading thing…when ‘at risk’ one is not even allowed cutlery to eat their meals…


  2. And I don’t know about you,Tom, but the shame and degradation sits upon my shoulder whispering in my ear to this very day. And every time I have to bring up and share that time, whether it be revelation and transparency for employment (which by the way, never gets offered) through to justification to a doctor for my low esteem and depression…the whispering just keeps getting louder…


  3. The degradation of anal analysis inspections are not just carried out in punishment wings, it is carried out after each prisoner receives a visitor! Why this degrading ritual to a prisoner is carried out when each visitor is screened and cannot carry or take anything into the room when visiting, this makes it virtually impossible for any drugs or any illegal contraband to be passed on a visit to a prisoner. There is little or no necessity for this perverse practice to be carried out, it is an infringement on a prisoners human rights.
    The sleep deprivation torture is also carried out by the police when interrogating a suspect, if they know a person is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs they do not permit them to have a nights sleep before interviewing and take statements from incoherent intoxicated suspects. They also take blood without consent from intoxicated suspects and lie about injuries inflicted by their brutality.
    What I find amazing is that the police and the prison system expect prisoners to leave prison feeling enlightened and able to carry on a normal life after having their arse inspected, deprived of sleep, beaten and accused of things they haven’t done and had to fight for their day to day survival.


  4. It is interesting that the HRC doesn’t list anything on its list of complaints regarding inhumane acts towards people held in police custody or prison. If anyone wishes to make a complaint to the HRC please email them on Perhaps if people start complaining to them it may make a difference. Their website is
    Another interesting fact is what the Ministry Of Foreign Affairs lists in regards of Human Rights being upheld by New Zealand. In particular it states that NZ upholds international regulations regarding the:- Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)
    UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)
    UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
    Then we have NZ Amnesty International who could be looking at what is going on in our own backyard in respect of the appalling treatment dished out to offenders and prisoners everyday in New Zealand people are being abused, humilated and degraded by the Department Of Corrections.


  5. Very interesting post.

    Hope this gets some attention, sounds very unnecessary and harmful.

    Many people suspect that the claimed reduction in drugs in prisons is a bit of a Ray Smith sham. Playing with figures for a “good news” story. Only the Minister would fall for it.


  6. Here is another recent disgraceful example of abuse extended to a prisoner being held in Otago Correctional Facility, this man was accused of concealing a cell phone inside his rectum. He was told to stand on the toilet seat and squat, where upon the prison warden not only looked up his rectum for this fictional cell phone but produced a metal detector and scanned his rectum and body,there wasn’t a cell phone up his arse it was another perverse example of unacceptable prison practice which is demeaning and unnecessary, just another routine day.This is what is deemed corrective by Correction!

    I have recently read the application form of the job criteria of a prison warden which states:-

    Our team at the Department of Corrections is dedicated and passionate. We are united by our goal of making a positive difference in our community by reducing reoffending and making our communities safer.
    Being part of Corrections is about being part of a team. Corrections Officers work together to ensure that prisoners are kept secure and treated fairly and consistently. They also have an important role in supporting prisoners to improve their chances of living offending-free lives.
    The best Corrections Officers have strong communication and relationship building skills, a mature outlook on life, common sense and high levels of integrity, ethics and resilience.
    What can we offer you?
    Extensive initial and on-going training
    The opportunity for you to make a real difference to your community
    Opportunities for professional development and promotion
    Participation in a National Certificate in Offender Management (NZQA)

    What was missing from this extensive list of nonsense in the realities of a guards job criteria which is: –
    Carrying out regular strip searches even when a prisoner has had no contact with the outside world
    Goading and provoking prisoners whenever you can to incite an aggressive reaction
    Punishing them at every opportunity and denying them any privileges even snack food which is necessary to supplement the meager diet
    Leaving prisoners to suffer mental torture of mindless boredom by withdrawing any form of mental activity for 23 hours a day
    Writing lies in their report making false claims about them and their behaviour
    Denying them rehab and telling them they have refused it when they haven’t
    Confiscating their belongings and not returning them
    Wearing down their self esteem and confidence
    Not offering appropriate support with education to enable them to finish their education
    Not offering appropriate support to encourage Tertiary education
    Not offering literacy help to educate those that can’t read and write
    Causing them panic and anxiety
    Failing to administer help with medical treatment
    Denying a person treatment for diagnosed conditions
    Denying any dental treatment even when in pain
    Denying a person with a diagnosed medical condition medication
    Failing to carry out CPR when a prisoner has attempted suicide
    Failing to administer emergency medication and CPR immediately when a prisoner requires treatment
    Punishing mentally impaired prisoners that should be in mental institutions
    Working towards every kind of negative aspect of humanity as a priority

    For the Department Of Corrections to make preposterous suggestions in their job criteria which are a complete and utter fabrication of the realities of what prison guards carry out daily in their jobs couldn’t be further from the truth.


  7. First, we are told nothing about the crimes these offenders committed and their impact on victims. Second, prison is intended to be a societal deterrent. It is punishment to be avoided. A theme in method of punishment in the criminal justice system across societies has been humiliation. Western societies have limited or completely eliminated public humiliation.

    Having a man strip completely and totally naked in front of other men, squat and spread his ass cheeks, hold his testicles and lift his scrotum, raise arms for armpit examination and have the mouth and inner cheek inspected is indeed a humiliating experience. It is intended to be so it serves as a deterrent to others who might offend. Deterrents serve as a means to keep crime rates low.

    Further, the men have criminal convictions and cannot be trusted. If suspected of being suicidal, the prison will be blamed if they kill themselves. Officers must ensure that suicidal men don’t hurt themselves, which includes a visual examination of every surface and orifice of the body. A small piece of metal or plastic can do a lot of damage.


    1. Steve, I take it you are a prison officer and you acknowledge that this degrading treatment goes on. Three things: first, the crime and the victims lead to imprisonment – this has nothing to do with how prisoners should be treated once in prison; second, degrading and humiliating treatment of prisoners is a breach of human rights; third, imprisonment does not act as a deterrent. Look up the research.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s