“The Department of Corrections must be congratulated for introducing prison performance tables, a process by which all 17 prisons are measured against one another in a range of areas including security, assaults, drug tests and rehabilitation programmes.” Says Kim Workman, spokesperson for Rethinking Crime and Punishment.

“Rethinking commented in November of last year that the management of New Zealand prisons was getting out of balance. The focus on risk management and physical security, had led to outstanding reductions in prison escapes and positive drug testing. However, at the same time, there has an increase in unnatural deaths, and assaults by prisoners on prisoners, and prisoners on staff. Excessive security measures threatened prison and staff safety. Weakened safety measures made it more difficult to assist prisoners to become law abiding. Increased prisoner activity was needed to make prisons safer. The three responsibilities are like three legs of a stool. If they are not in balance, then the stool (that is, the prison) will become unstable and may well fall over.”

“The Department’s prison performance framework neatly measures those three categories; security, safety, rehabilitation and prisoner activity.”

“The next challenge will be to measure the moral performance of prisons. UK Professor Alison Liebling is a world leader in how to assessing the quality of the prison environment, based on four factors:

– Relationship dimensions including respect, humanity, trust, staff-prisoner relationships and support;

– Regime dimensions conceptualised in terms of fairness, order, safety, well-being, personal development, family contact, and decency;

– Social structures dimensions of power and prisoner social life; and

– Individual dimensions that concern meaning and quality of life.”

“That approach requires the prisoners and staff to respond by way of a consumer survey. What they have found is that high performing prisons are collaborative, and involve high control alongside high support. This means confronting and disapproving of wrong-doing, while recognising the intrinsic worth of the wrongdoer. It means expressing disapproval ‘within a context of care and concern’. It requires those in power to model good behaviour, and show persistence, consistency and care; importantly, it encourages self-control and redirects behaviour – what might be called ‘supportive limit-setting’. Above all, it means doing things with people.”