16 Jul 2010

Animals treated better than inmates, mother says

6:14 pm on 16 July 2010

The mother of a prisoner says inmates are often treated "worse than animals" and the Government must take seriously recommendations on inmate their healthcare in a new report.

In the report, released on Friday, an independent group of advisers to the Government on health says it must consider transferring responsibility for inmates' health from the Corrections Department to the Ministry of Health.

The National Health Committee says the role of Corrections in custody, containment and community safety is inconsistent with the demands of integrated primary healthcare.

The mother of a 25-year-old South Island inmate backs the findings. Debbie, who asked not to have her full name used, says she has struggled for 12 years to get drug treatment for her son, and he's lacked good dental care.

"People's prize pets would have a better life than people in prison," she says. "I'm not suggesting people in prison should be treated like royalty, but I think everybody has a right to basic human dignity and they shouldn't be treated in that fashion."

Peter Williams, QC, from the Howard League for Penal Reform, says the Ministry of Health would take a far more humane approach to looking after prisoners.

At present, Corrections is responsible for inmates' basic health needs while the Ministry of Health picks up specialist services.

A committee member, health researcher Dr Te Kani Kingi, says better healthcare for prison inmates would save the country money in the long term, though the group can't put a figure on the savings.