23 Jan 2009

Batons, pepper spray considered for prison officers

7:18 pm on 23 January 2009

The Corrections Department is considering introducing batons, pepper spray and tasers into prisons to improve the safety of prison officers.

But the department says it has no plans to introduce armed response teams.

As part of a Prison Service staff safety project, the department is looking at what protective equipment is provided in prisons around the world.

It is also analysing all assaults against officers in recent years, to assess whether additional personal protective equipment would have provided greater protection.

The department has found that prison officers in other countries are not typically provided with additional equipment in their normal duties, over and above what officers carry in New Zealand.

However, it says a range of personal gear is being considered. These include stab proof vests, spit hoods, batons, pepper spray and tasers, as well as what situations they should be used in.

The department says the introduction of non-lethal tools, such as tasers or pepper spray, would require extremely careful consideration and also law changes.

It expects the research and analysis phase of the project to be completed later this month, before recommendations are made to senior management in April.

A union for prison officers, the Corrections Association, is involved with the project.