Health and disability
Disability rights and support inside prison
What support is available?
Prisons must provide health care, which includes access to support for mental health needs and physical disabilities. Currently there is no Corrections policy regarding accommodations for disabled prisoners. Instead each case is dealt with individually.
When you arrive at prison you should receive a needs assessment. This will become a part of your management plan during your time in prison.
Can I get mental health support?
Yes. If you have a mild to moderate mental health need, you should be referred to the prison doctor. Counselling and other mental health services should be made available to you. High level mental health needs are managed in partnership with the local Regional Forensic Mental Health Services.
For the highest-level mental health needs, prisoners may be transferred to a secure forensic mental health facility run by the District Health Board.
Can I get support for physical disabilities?
Yes. You should receive the same level of support you would receive on the outside. Disability support is funded through the local District Health Board disability and support services.
Whether your wing is high or low security may affect what type of equipment is available, but in general it would be unreasonable for the prison to withhold equipment that is necessary to manage your disability.
All prisons are supposed to have cells specifically designed for prisoners with disabilities.
Can I get the same equipment I would get on the outside?
Yes. You should be able to keep any equipment that you use to manage your disability. If you don’t have the equipment with you, then the necessary prison property should be issued to you. The equipment will need to be inspected before being issued to you and may have to be approved by Health Services staff. If you require the equipment once you are already in prison, you will need to fill in a ‘Request for Property’ form.
Can I keep the equipment when I’m released?
If it belongs to you, then yes. If the equipment belongs to the prison you won’t be able to keep it.
What if my disability was caused in prison?
How do I report inadequate support or abuse by my care support?
You can make a complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner.
Can someone write letters on my behalf?
Yes. Sending mail is a minimum entitlement that every prisoner has, but there are no systems in place for a particular person to assist with writing letters.
Every prisoner who has low literacy should be enrolled in a literacy programme as part of their management plan.
Do prison libraries have books in accessible formats?
Access to Library Services are a minimum entitlement, so prisons should have books in accessible formats. However, prison libraries often rely on donations so the contents of each library will vary in each prison.
You are entitled to have a cassette/CD player in your cell and have audio books or braille books sent to you by friends and whānau.
What disability support is available for education?
Access to education that will assist your rehabilitation and reintegration is a minimum entitlement. If you require support such as assistive technology, Teacher Aide support, reader-writer support, you need to make an application for Access to Facilities.
Before approving the support the prison will consider various things like:
- whether support can be provided safely and securely
- current resources available at the prison and the availability and cost of getting new resources
- the impact on other prisoners’; access to facilities.
Any services necessary for your education should not be unreasonably withheld.