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A new Prisoner Welfare Governance Board will help Corrections ensure prisoner safety and wellbeing and provide reassurance to the public that prisons are as safe as possible, Corrections Minister Louise Upston says.

The board, which includes three external members, was established and is chaired by the Corrections chief executive to drive and support the department in its ongoing work to improve the safety and welfare of people in prisons across New Zealand.

“Corrections has a duty of care to the prisoners in its custody and I am pleased it has taken this step to look at ways it can improve prisoner welfare and respond appropriately where there are concerns,” Ms Upston says.

To ensure a range of views are heard, three external members with wide expertise and experience have been appointed. They are Te Puni Kōkiri chief executive Michelle Hippolite, former Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem and former Secretary for Justice Mel Smith.

“The establishment of this board should reassure prisoners and the public that concerns about welfare and safety are of the utmost importance to Corrections and that it is always looking for ways to improve its operations. I look forward to hearing more about its progress,” Ms Upston says.

During its first meeting, on 30 June, the board determined initial priorities and discussed enhancing provision of mental health services, services for people at risk of self-harm and suicide, and the safety and welfare of vulnerable people such as older people or those with disabilities.

In September it will discuss a review of suicides and suspected suicides in prisons, services for people with mental health needs and the department’s management of transgender prisoners.

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