Arthur Taylor subject to cruel inhuman treatment – Ombudsman: chief executive implicated.

Arthur TaylorDuring his current incarceration in Paremoremo, Arthur Taylor has got right up the noses of Corrections officials by repeatedly taking them to court. He asked the High Court to rule that the National Party’s blanket ban on prisoners voting contradicts human rights – which it does according to the European Court of Human Rights. He appealed the smoking ban introduced by Judith Collins – and won the legal battle forcing the Government to change the rules in order to win the war.

Mr Taylor has become something of a ‘prison lawyer’ and for a while was allowed to store his legal files in a separate room. Not surprisingly, Corrections management don’t like him, and in June 2011 he was placed on ‘directed segregation’ after he was allegedly caught with a cell phone in his possession.  (If the Department’s cell blocking technology actually worked – current cost $13 million – Mr Taylor would not have been able to use a cell phone, but that’s another story.)

Directed segregation

IsolationDirected segregation means the prisoner is locked in his cell 23 hours a day and unable to communicate with other prisoners.  According to the Ombudsman, this “allows a prison to restrict or deny a prisoner the opportunity to associate with other prisoners thus reducing any influence or risk that they may present.”  However it may “only be imposed when absolutely necessary to protect the security, good order and safety of the prison, and should only be imposed for the period that such a risk exists.”

Segregation in prison is a punishment of last resort so is usually imposed for only 14 days.  Arthur Taylor was kept in segregation for more than eight months.  He complained to the Ombudsman who took the matter seriously and released a 34 page report titled the “Management of Arthur Taylor at Auckland Prison between 15 June 2011 and 30 April 2012”.

Extensions to 14 day penalty

The prison manager has to have a valid reason to extend a segregation order. So prison Residential Manager, Tony Queree, wrote a memo saying it was “clearly evident that prisoner Taylor has taken excessive advantage of the unit staff efforts to support him in the preparation of his (legal issues). No matter where we place him, he has continually shown that he presents a significant ongoing threat to the security and good order of this institution.”

Bev WakemThe Ombudsman (Beverley Wakem) could find no evidence that Mr Taylor continued to pose a risk to the security of the prison beyond the initial 14 days.  She contradicted Mr Queree’s assertions noting that:

“No incident reports, misconduct paperwork, or file notes were attached to support Mr Queree’s contention that Mr Taylor remained a threat to the security and good order of the prison… Mr Queree did not provide any information which showed the risk remained, and as such, an extension was required.

“The reference to the assistance provided to Mr Taylor for his legal matters does not appear to be valid… as approval had been given by the Department for Mr Taylor to have an office area, and there was a legal obligation for the Department to provide assistance to prisoners for the preparation of legal proceedings.”

Nevertheless, Mr Taylor ended up in continuous segregation for the next eight months – because management regard him as a litigious and difficult prisoner.  Not only was he isolated from other prisoners, for much of the time he was also denied his entitlement to exercise for an hour a day and was allowed only one five minute phone call a week. The Ombudsman was highly critical of virtually every aspect of Mr Taylor’s segregation and said:

“In many cases most, if not all, of Mr Taylor’s rights and entitlements listed on the management plan were restricted despite no risk being identified in relation to those areas… There are no documented reasons for the decision to deny (him) the ability to associate with other prisoners.”

The High Care Unit

NZ prisonAt one point, the prison manager placed Mr Taylor in what is known as the High Care Unit (HCU). This used to be known as the At Risk Unit but these cells were decommissioned years ago because of their run down condition.  At Risk Units are designed to prevent suicidal prisoners from committing suicide and operate in most New Zealand prisons.  They’re more like sensory deprivations cells – with no TV, no radio, nothing to read and no visitors allowed. The inmates hate them.

Putting psychologically vulnerable prisoners into such conditions was criticised by the Ombudsman in the 2011 OPCAT reportbecause the units are focused on custody rather than treatment.”  That report described the detrimental impact on prisoners “who had been detained in at risk units for several months, often in strip conditions, and with limited opportunities to interact with other.”  The Ombudsman has also noted that Corrections uses At Risk cells to ‘manage’ prisoners who will often “drift in and out of the At Risk Unit whether they are at risk of self-harm or not.”  

The Ombudsman was particularly concerned about conditions in the Auckland HCU, as there was no power or running water and nearby lights were left on all night. Leaving the lights on for months on end contributes to sleep deprivation – one of the ‘clean’ torture techniques used by regimes which claim to respect international law and human rights.

The psychological impact

Noting that Mr Taylor was held in these segregated conditions for months on end, the Ombudsman said “Denying a prisoner the ability to associate with other prisoners is a significant restriction to the prisoner’s rights, and can have significant impact on prisoners’ well-being and mental state of mind if the denial of association is for extended periods of time… The placement of Mr Taylor into the HCU, along with the restrictions imposed by the management plan… was more akin to a punishment regime. Further it appears that his placement into the HCU had the effect of exacerbating his behaviour rather than improving it.”

Peter WilliamsThis should come as no surprise. Retired defence lawyer, Peter Williams QC, who has extensive knowledge of prison conditions, discussed the issues in a Herald article: Jail isolation breaks souls and minds. The question is – does this constitute torture?

The Ombudsman seems to think so. In yet another OPCAT report, Monitoring Places of Detention (2013), she wrote:

Segregated prisoners at Auckland and Mt Eden prisons had particularly bad living conditions… Most prisoners placed on directed segregation were not receiving a daily minimum entitlement of one hour in the open air….The lack of appropriate management facilities at Auckland prison… is exacerbated by a lack of stimulation for those held on long-term segregation.

“Accommodation for those prisoners currently undergoing a period of segregation is well below standard and could be considered cruel and inhuman for the purposes of the Convention against Torture.”

Don’t rock the boat

In other words, the Ombudsman specifically describes the treatment of Mr Taylor as a ‘punishment regime’ which  ‘exacerbated’ his behaviour and depicts the segregation cells in Paremoremo  as ‘cruel and inhuman’.  She excuses herself from doing anything about this by putting the words ‘could be considered’ in front of ‘cruel and inhuman’.  What this seems to mean is that until a prison official is actually charged and convicted, it’s a moot point.

But the Ombudsman is not about to rock the boat. If she had been willing to take a more proactive stance, the United Nations and the New Zealand police would have to be notified and then a prosecution could then be initiated against the prison managers and Corrections chief executive, Ray Smith.

Ray SmithMr Smith would be accountable because section 58 of the Corrections Act says the chief executive has to be informed of any directed segregation “and the reasons for it” and a directed segregation can only be extended beyond 14 days if “the chief executive directs that it continue in force”.  Mr Taylor was subject to directed segregation for eight months – which indicates Mr Ray Smith is complicit in his ‘treatment’.

The potential penalties for Mr Smith are serious. The NZ Crimes of Torture Act – which includes cruel and inhuman treatment – says anyone who “conspires with any other person to commit an act of torture” or “is an accessory after the fact to an act of torture” is liable to up to ten years in prison.

Who you’re gonna call?

The reality is that describing what happened to Arthur Taylor and other segregated prisoners as torture – and suggesting the chief executive should be prosecuted, would likely lead to a media frenzy. It would be politically disastrous for the Corrections Department, the National Government and possibly for the Ombudsman.  No wonder she was reluctant to notify the United Nations or the police.

Graham McCreadyIn the absence of a more definitive statement from her, will the police prosecute anybody? I doubt it. So who you’re gonna call?

Graham McCready  of course.

14 thoughts on “Arthur Taylor subject to cruel inhuman treatment – Ombudsman: chief executive implicated.

  1. awesome, about time the corrections department were held accountable for there bullshit tactics start petitions i will always support this type of bullshit, wake up NZ the system does not work.


  2. Corrections have been getting away with this sort of stuff for decades and clearly management consider themselves immune to any sort of accountability. Prosecution is certainly an answer but are we ever going to be able to find a judge who is honest enough to convict and then punish, I doubt it.


    1. The consequences of giving people power over others who are in a vulnerable position was documented in a famous experiment conducted at Yale University by psychologist Stanley Milgram. He measured the willingness of participants to obey authority figures and deliver (fake) electric shocks to the victims. The experiments began in July 1961, three months after the start of the trial of German Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem.

      Milgram put forward two theories about why people obey authority figures: The first is the theory of conformism, whereby a subject who has neither ability nor expertise to make decisions, especially in a crisis, will leave decision making to the group and its hierarchy (in this case, management at Corrections).

      The second is the agentic state theory, whereby, “the essence of obedience consists in the fact that a person comes to view themselves as the instrument for carrying out another person’s wishes, and they therefore no longer see themselves as responsible for their actions.”


  3. After searching for my rights to obtaining my prison file I came across this blog, it struck me as at the age of 17 I was sentenced 3 /2 years prison. During that time its safe to say I wasnt the most compliant inmate although, during the 14 months of remand time I did make a concerted effort to rehabilitate myself but unfortunately received little or no assistance. Due to this and the fact I had no family in this country to support me I was left frustrated and resentful to the new zealand penal system which led me to fighr prisoner rights battles against the officers I had little success and eventually got targeted and labled a problem inmate.

    After about 2 years alot of provocation from officers and many days spent on cell cinfinement and months off privileges I punched an officer who I believe d to punched me during restraint. For this act I enduring significant abuse physically during my move to placment in the management unit I also was denied my property from my previous cell for a number of days left only with a ripped book, soap, a towel and toilet paper. I was innitially on a management plan for 2 months and then my security class was put at maximum and due to the assault being taken to the outside court I wasnt aloud to be transferred to paremoremo prison where I would of gained slightly better privileges so stayed on 23 hr isolation for 8 months and was only aloud exercise in a 10 by 10 meter cage if it was during my time eating breakfast and tea.

    Otherwise I would have have 1 hr rec in a 2 by 1 meter cage with no sunlight I was regularly denied rec as I requested the larger cage in the afternoon but was told no and when I tried to reason got my door shut and was denied. I thought this was un humane and tried to speak out I a legal way but to no avail was just threatened with my little comforts taken away.

    I am now free after serving my whole sentence plus the time I hot added I think the time in isolation effected my mental state and has had a lasting impact in my life. My whole time in prison I beleve was a mistake on corrections behalf due to the lack of rehabilitative meaures given to me and also a the placement of md on to mainstream at a young age which led to me being forced to defend myself against inmates. I hope someone can help me stop this happening to another person not to mention someone as young as I was, its never to late to change but with some help at a young age offenders may leave prison and become pillars of society. Id like to stress im not the only one and seen many in a similar predicament. My name will be released if help is provided as it is for the better of all degraded and un humanely treated inmates in nz, thanks anon


  4. No surprises. Ray Smith is probably the worst criminal in the country. Segregation with 21 hour lockdown is practiced in J Block at Hawkes Bay Prison (Mangaroa) as norm – not punishment – and inmates could spend many months on that block. Recently I was released from your old favorite Rimutaka after Court of Appeal quashed my convictions. 21 months inside gave me a good overview of our sick system.

    Current Minister bellows on about rehabilitation when most of us know that this is the last thing Corrections actually want. Like any business they are reliant on repeat customers for their survival so actively pursue released inmates and make their transition back into the community as difficult as possible for the sole purpose of getting them back behind bars asap.

    Anyone who complains about any aspect of Corrections is automatically singled out for punishment and if you have the audacity to appeal your convictions and claim innocence you will definitely be punished by Ray Smith’s sick system. He should be sent back to the UK where 150 years ago they would have shipped him off to Tasmania where he belongs.


  5. Its black and white that this behaviour by Corrections is illegal. Its wrong and inhumane. Corrections know damn well that Arthur is not a threat to any other prisoner; he knows right from wrong and will admit hes done wrong. The damage Corrections have done is so overpowering. Arthur has used his time to rehabilitate himself, whether its through books or qualified counsellors. Arthur has become more educated than most Corrections staff. That is what they are afraid of. I praise the man for looking after inmates that have no idea of the law and their entitlements. I believe he’s a very intelligent man, Corrections feels threatened by him and that’s why they have treated him so badly.


  6. I received a five-year sentence for possession of meth after being railroaded by the NZ police, and court prosecutor, then the judge. They found no drugs on my person or money, only an old pipe for smoking, which I was never convicted for. After the judges inconsistent trial management, I found myself in jail doing five years. I was angry and innocent. Upon arriving up north I was told my conviction was in fact for heroin. I protested to no avail. Upon being sentenced in my second trial where I monstrously abused of my rights, I received five years. The judge gave an opposite ruling than the judge in the first trial regarding the admissability of evidence from a cellphone found at a house where my pregnant girlfriend was living.

    I won my appeal myself with Arthurs help. The court of appeal ruled the judge had made so many mistakes that he was to have nothing to do with the third trial. To my amazement after getting allocated a new judge for my third trial, my lawyer sent me an email saying the judge from the second trial was taking over the third trial – even after three court of appeal judges admitted he made so many mistakes, he was to have nothing to do with the third trial.

    Then I was abused, treated inhumanely by Corrections continually for daring to express my right to defend myself as innocent. I was subjected to pound cell searches by police, corrections to teach me a lesson and break me for continually expressing my concerns to the ombudsman. As rubbish collector in prison, I continually found prisoner complaint forms in the rubbish (thown out by officers), private property stolen from my cell by guards at Serco Corrections Mt Eden. My ombudsman complaint come to nothing even though the officers in charge acted inappropriately and lied saying my cell mate stole my property even though I was in a single cell.

    They all from the cops to the judges right thru corrections all have their safeguards and loopholes to watch each other back. I would love to find someone competent to take up my wrongful incarceration and even charge that judge for judicial intimidation, including the police for failing to uphold their sworn duty.

    Don’t let this country’s legal system decay much more or we will be nothing better than a third world state. Bring accountability back to aspects of our legal systems instead of sweeping years and years of prisoner and public protesting and grievances under the bloody rug. I understand first-hand how horribly broken, and inhumane our system is with no accountability for their wrongful actions measures I compare to Quantanimo Bay. And Arthur you’re my bloody hero – even though it took so long for my release. Thanks jwd


  7. Fucken sad for the chief executive to do that to another man. But I’m a strong believer that there is a balance in everything and those that have done that to someone will have their own misery in there family. Then they well know what its like to lose someone to sickness and a lot more. You treat people how you want to be treated so may god save you – cause no one else will.


  8. Prisoners have rights , they should not be treated like this ,some of those wardens are so evil and think they are above the prisoners ….Who the hell does Judith Collins think she is to take the right of them having a smoke ..discusting give them there rights and they may change there lifes around ..NZ wake up the justice system is so shocking makes me sick to say im a new zealander…


  9. Without sounding naive but how/why is this happening in NZ?it looks to me that corruption within our corrections system is alive&well.Arthur Taylor was stonewalled by the corrections authorities at every corner because he chose to speak up&speak the truth.ray smith you&your system are a disgrace&hope you get your comeuppance.Arthur Taylor.A true justice warrior.


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