JDI IN THE NEWS - 2002

Officers in Sex-in-Jail Revelation, The Press, July 8, 2002.

The prison officers' union wants the Corrections Department to stamp out the problem of women prison officers having sexual relationships with male inmates.

The Corrections Association (Canz) said it knew of five women who had left or been dismissed from Christchurch's Paparua Prison in the past two years because of alleged "inappropriate relations" with male inmates.

Canz national organiser Brian Davies said women officers made up 30 percent of staff in men's prisons nationally but the department was not doing enough to protect them from wily male inmates.

"Canz is aware that problems exist. It is important that the Public Prisons Service (PPS) acknowledges it also, and takes significant steps to stop it," Mr Davies said.

Corrections' code of conduct states that staff must not begin or maintain close friendships or sexual or financial relationships with inmates.

Mr Davies said inexperienced women officers often became the centre of attention of a prison's captive male audience and some women had been duped.

"They are the only women that the inmates are able to interact with socially, and there are some very clever inmates," he said.

"There are some people in prison who have been convicted of perpetrating crimes of deception against top businesspeople."

Mr Davies said the problem would get worse if Corrections introduced a proposed stand-alone night watch scheme, where a woman officer could be left in charge of a 60-bed male unit.

"Canz believes the PPS has an obligation to protect women staff members from these sorts of issues, and they are not doing enough to protect them at the moment," he said.

"They need to develop detailed programmes that ensure women staff are made fully aware of the potential problems, are able to recognise the signs and respond accordingly."

PPS spokeswoman Catherine Hall said a few staff members had problems maintaining appropriate relationships with inmates, but the majority coped.

New officers were taught strategies to manage professional relationships with inmates, said Ms Hall, assistant general manager corporate development.

Corrections issues guidelines to female staff about sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual conduct.

"The department's code of conduct also states that all staff are expected to recognise the vulnerability of people under the department's care and show respect for and protect their dignity," she said.