A prison advocacy group and a former inmate are calling for an independent panel to deal with complaints from prisoners.

The call comes after a worrying number of sexual abuse and serious assault complaints against corrections staff were made public.    

Former inmate Eugene Ryder says assaults against prisoners isn't news to him.

“What surprises me is that it's only now come to the forefront. I think those that have experienced the prison system have experienced incidents like that as almost normal.”

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says this is a problem that arose during the last government.

“Ko te raruraru kua kore ngā rorohiko o Te Ara Poutama ki kōrero ki tētahi ki tētahi. Nā reira nāku i mea atu ki a rātou ngā āpiha kia whakatikatikangia tēnei āhuatanga.”

But, Ryder isn't pleased with the way the Corrections Minister has placed his priorities.

“People have been abused and that should be the focus, and the system secondary. So, first of all, find out who those people are who made those complaints.”

A prison advocate, Kim Workman, says besides the ombudsman, there needs to be an alternative way for prisoners to get their complaints heard.

“Maybe it's time to look at an independent inspectorate or an investigation authority that can take a more proactive position around complaints of this kind.”

However, Davis says there's already a woman in that role who investigates those kinds of matters.

“Ko ia e haereere ana ki roto i ia whare herehere e āta tirohia ana, kōrero ana ki ngā mauhere, kōrero ana ki a wai rānei e tirohia ana i ngā āhuatanga kei roto i ngā whare herehere.”

Like prisoners, Corrections staff must act within the law.