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Prisoner's rights

Health and disability

Specific health needs and conditions

I have a terminal illness – what kind of treatment can I expect?

Parole Act 2002, s 41

If you have an illness that you will die from, you must be provided with care and treatment that keeps you comfortable and you must be treated with dignity. You can apply for, and may be granted, compassionate release.

How will I be given medication that I’m supposed to take regularly (for example, for asthma, diabetes or depression)?

Authorised Property Rules, 1.1

This depends on the medication. For example, prisoners can often keep their asthma inhalers and angina medication with them and use it when necessary. Other types of medication may need to be delivered to the unit each morning and night and then passed on to the prisoner. Some medication has to be taken in front of a prison nurse, who may visit the prison unit several times a day.

Sometimes if you want to have the same medication you were prescribed outside prison you may have to pay for the medication yourself.

What if I don’t get the medicine I was prescribed outside prison?

You should start by talking to your PCO, and if you’re not satisfied with the response you can complain to the prison manager. If you need to complain to an official outside the prison, you can complain to the Health and Disability Commissioner.

I need a special diet – will I be able to stay on that diet?

Corrections Act 2004, s 72

Yes, you’ll be given any special diet recommended by the prison doctors and nurses if you have a medical condition that requires one. There’s usually no difficulty in arranging this. The kitchen staff make meals according to the instructions of the medical staff.

I’m transgender. Can I get reassignment surgery or hormone treatment in prison?

You can’t get reassignment surgery while you are in prison. You can receive hormone treatment while you are in prison, but this will be at your own cost. The cost should be the same as what you would pay with a Community Services Card outside of prison.

Can I ask the nurse for clean needles to use in prison?

No, you’re not allowed needles in prison.

Can I get methadone treatment for addiction?

If you’re on the methadone programme when you arrive in prison you can stay on it for a certain time, but you don’t get put on methadone if you’re not on it already. Usually the prison medical staff try to get you off your methadone programme as quickly as possible after you arrive in prison. The methadone will be handed out to you daily by the nurses and you’ll have to take it in front of them.

If I’m injured in prison, can I get any financial help?

If you’re injured and the injury is likely to affect you once you leave prison, the health centre staff will register an ACC claim for you, so long as you got the injury while you were doing some legal activity, like sport or working.

Can I be separated from other prisoners because of a health issue?

Corrections Act 2004, s 60; Corrections Regulations 2005, regs 55, 56, 63

Yes. You can be separated from others (“segregated”) to assess or safeguard your physical or mental health. This could be done, for example, if you have an infectious disease like scabies. It could also be done to protect your own welfare –; for example, if there’s a risk you’ll harm yourself.

You must be given the reasons in writing for being segregated. While in segregation you must be visited regularly by a health professional –; that is, at least once a day, and at least twice a day if the prison staff believe there’s a risk you’ll harm yourself.

What are the prison’s rules around infectious diseases?

If a prison doctor finds that you have an infectious disease they’re required to inform the appropriate health authorities outside the prison. If the health staff believe special precautions are necessary, they notify the prison manager, who will approve any special arrangements to reduce the risk of the disease spreading.

If you’re being tested for AIDS/HIV, then before and after a test you must be given counselling by a doctor or counsellor. You’ll be told of the results of the test.

What if I need a prosthesis (like an artificial limb) or another kind of aid for daily living?

You’re entitled to the following aids:

  • false teeth
  • spectacles (eye glasses)
  • braille equipment and other equipment for the blind
  • hearing aids
  • artificial limbs
  • breast prostheses, if you’ve had a mastectomy
  • wigs, if you’ve lost your hair due to a medical condition or chemotherapy
  • walking sticks, crutches or a walking frame
  • wheelchairs
  • aids for arthritis sufferers
  • splints and trusses
  • orthotic aids (like inserts for your shoes)
  • any other aid recommended by the medical officer.

The prison will arrange for an aid or prosthesis to be repaired or replaced if the prison medical staff think your health would be seriously affected without it. The prison staff will negotiate with you about how much you’ll have to pay for this, which will usually depend on how much you earn. You’ll make payments through your P119 prisoner trust account.

If you deliberately destroy or damage your prosthesis or aid you’ll have to pay the full cost of replacement or repair.

Can I be an organ donor or sperm donor while in prison?

If you’ve put on your driver’s license or other official document that you’re an organ donor, that will continue while you’re in prison.

You can’t be a sperm donor while you’re in prison.

What happens when a prisoner dies in prison?

Corrections Act 2004, ss 79, 80, 183; Corrections Regulations 2005, regs 8, 38

If you die in prison, your cultural, religious and spiritual beliefs will be recognised and respected. As soon as possible your next of kin will be notified by the police. Only the police can approve and arrange for the removal of your body. The Department of Corrections will meet the cost of transporting your body directly to your place of burial or cremation in Aotearoa New Zealand, after accepting a quote for reasonable costs. Your family members can also approach Work and Income for further financial help.

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Health and disability

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