Changes made to Christchurch Men's Prison's intervention support unit after damning report - 'so far out of touch'

Major change is underway in our prisons as corrections overhauls the way it handles the most volatile inmates.

Christchurch Men's Prison's highly-critcised intervention support unit holds inmates with high mental health needs, where pat-down body searches are mandatory.

Christchurch Men's Prison’s chief custodial officer, Neil Beales, says "some of these men are very, very dangerous".

"They will physically damage themselves to the point where they need hospital treatment, opening old wounds, [and] putting things inside those wounds, (things) you and I wouldn't dream of doing," Mr Beales said.

Other inmates are deemed a high suicide risk, and they are constantly watched.

"We want to make them better for when they're released so it needs to be a more therapeutic approach."

The unit was criticised as unacceptable for distressed prisoners, with the ombudsman's report released last year describing a high level of violence, and claims the facilities were anti-therapeutic.

The prison's principal corrections officer, Robert Risdon, says the "areas have changed a lot" following the release of the damning report.

"We didn't have TVs, we didn't have chalk boards - we didn't have any of the sensory equipment we now have," Mr Risdon said.

Some of the inmates' cells breached the Nelson Mandela rules, with no natural light and, at the time of inspection, no fresh air circulating in the cells as black polythene was used to seal off the vent.

"That was a result of prisoners throwing urine and stuff through that grill at the top on staff but we've since taken all that down."

Also included in the changes is more normal mealtimes and inmates are now being taken out for exercise.

"It was a little bit of a shock to think we were so far out of touch with what other people were doing."

The ombudsman’s report made 54 recommendations for Christchurch Men's Prison, 44 of which were accepted by prison management.

However, a review team has yet to visit the prison for a follow-up and the date has yet to be decided.

Twenty-five million dollars is now being invested in mental health provisions in prisons across the country.

The unit was slammed in an ombudsman’s report as being unacceptable for distressed prisoners. Source: 1 NEWS