5 comments on “Prison suicides swept under the Cornerstone

  1. I spent 12 months in Auckland Regional Corrections facility , the med centre there also received a Cornerstone award.These are my personal observations:
    * The doctor never looked at anyone, she would face her computer screen and talk to you.
    * The doctor was anti any vitamin supplements despite inmates being menopausal, alcohol affected, iron deficient etc….
    * Panadol was the only pain relief available
    * One prisoner fell off a sofa because staff did not provide a ladder to take down Christmas decorations (OSH issue) She waited 3 weeks for her broken foot to be taken seriously.
    * Prisoners are denied prescribed psychiatric medication.
    * Parasuicide or suicidal thinking is considered “attention seeking”
    * Many women are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Nothing is done for them.
    * Women are too scared to admit to depression, trauma for fear of being put under obs in an inhumane policy “until they come right” still with no real help.
    * Anyone who challenged the doctor was labelled offensive and confrontational (as was my shy 62 year old roommate)
    * Written communication to the Human Rights Commission disappeared.

    On a positive side “most” the nursing staff were good, and several were outstanding. The dentist, while pleasant, gave me the most painful oral health tooth clean I have ever had!

    Here are some other considerations for women’s health in prison.

    * While mammogram checks are offered, few women want to go through the indignity of yet another strip search after going to the offsite clinic, they are cuffed and escorted in the clinic.
    * Our bodies are not shaped like male body’s . So a 1″ mattress on a steel bed frame has in my case caused ongoing hip problems, caused sleep deprivation at the time and back problems.

    Generally though society does not care…they only see bad arsed criminals who deserve everything they get. In actual fact many of the women should not be there, they are not all thugs and violent criminals, many are older; mothers, grandmothers, some are physically disabled, most are poor. In a civilized society they would have help for their addictions, unwellness, abuse and lack of education and lack of suitable legal representation.

    From my personal experience NZ Prisons are run by despots living in their own little kingdom, they are emotionally and rationally retarded, have small regard for the United Nations Declaration of Prisoner Rights, no regard for Human Rights, pay lip service to the Treaty of Waitangi and break nearly every legislative requirement from occupational safety to medical care….sometimes I wonder…just who are the criminals?


  2. Where do you get the prison suicides statistic? You cite Wikipedia, but the reference has been removed, probably for good reason.

    From what I can find, the actual rate is 0.053%, compared to 0.011% in the general population. That’s 5 times higher, not 11 times higher. See eg. http://www.nzdoctor.co.nz/media/1978444/suicide_data_2011_2012.pdf and http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/snapshots-of-nz/yearbook/society/crime/corrections.aspx

    A quick Google shows mainstream media gets it right while the blogosphere tends to use this mysterious 11 times figure.


    • Chris, There is no ‘right’ as the rate varies from year to year. Generally the prison rate is between 4 to 6 times higher than the community rate. In 2011, there were 12 suicides in prison so that year the rate was 11 times higher.

      And don’t forget, committing suicide in prison – with limited access to ways and means and constant supervision – is a lot harder than killing yourself in the community where mostly no one is watching. Prison officers also stop many prisoners in the middle of trying. If they didn’t stop them, the prison rate would be about 30 times higher than the community rate – every year.


        • In 2012 the rate in the community was 12.34 suicides per 100,000 of population.’

          The Departments Annual Report for that year (Page 15) shows there were 12 suicides and 23 “self-harm threat to life incidents”. That’s a total of 35 suicides and near suicides (out of total of 8,500 prisoners) giving a rate of 411 per 100,000.

          411 divided by 12.34 gives a suicide/attempted rate which is 33 times higher than the community rate.


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