'Significant concern' - intellectually disabled prisoners as well as prison guards' lives at risk, say top NZ psychiatrists


The state of care for intellectually disabled prisoners is so under resourced in New Zealand that lives are being put at risk, top psychiatrists say.

One spoke exclusively with 1 NEWS about why the system is in crisis.
Source: 1 NEWS

A letter signed by five District Health Board bosses has raised a "crisis" situation for our intellectually disabled prisoners with the health and safety of both prisoners and security staff at risk.

"We have quite a significant concern about the lack of resourcing for this particular group of people with intellectual disability," Canterbury Head of Forensic Psychiatry Dr Peri Renison said.

"There are regular assaults on our staff and also between people under the Care Act."

Civil liberties lawyer Michael Bott has five clients with disabilities and echoes the concerns of the District Health Board bosses.

"They fall through the system, they wind up in prison, they get no help at all, the prison hasn't got the resources or the expertise," Mr Bott said.

The Human Rights Commission has also said numerous reports have outlined the problems, but still there has been no solution.

"You've got 16 or 17 different agencies clustered around this small group of people, and we need to find a better way to support them," Chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford said.

The Ministry of Health says it's put in place measures to meet acute demand while a longer term solution is found, pointing out a new national service being developed to provide greater options for high-risk and high-need offenders.

But that's still 18 months away.

Labour Party Health spokesperson David Clark says past efforts haven't been good enough.

"National system failure, imminent danger to staff and patients, these are not things you hear every day, and the really big thing is this has been going on for 18 months," Mr Clark said.

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