Everything that’s wrong with…

Jeremy Lightfoot - another import with accountability issues

Corrections National Commissioner Jeremy Lightfoot – another import with accountability issues

It is inarguable that the Department of Corrections is one of the most dysfunctional of our Government agencies and with alarming regularity we are seeing astonishing examples of this.  The recent inquest in to the death of Jai Davis gave the public a rare insight in to the levels of incompetence and attitudes that dominate the ranks of Corrections staff.  That any one person could have such disrespect for human life, but that the entire Department of Corrections has this attitude something that should be of deep concern to us all.  All credit to Roger Brooking for not letting Corrections, police and IPCA bury this as they had wished to.

Some of what came out at that inquest was frightening.  A corrections officer with 22 years experience admitting that she did not know that a medical officer was a doctor would be astonishing in any other agency but typical within Corrections.  Records being falsified, staff refusing to give evidence at the inquest because they might incriminate themselves.  The litany of medical and custodial incompetence goes beyond poor training and education and speaks to the core problems and attitudes that have dominated Corrections for decades.  As long as the utterly biased Corrections Inspectorate is permitted to continue its existence and indulge in systemic whitewashing of legitimate complaints there will be no accountability and this sort of thing will continue to happen.  Perhaps they think that killing off the inmate population is the key to reducing re-offending.

Chris "I'm as honest as the day is long" Yearwood

Chris “I’m as honest as the day is long” Yarwood

Those bad attitudes are not confined to the jailors and can also be found alive and well within the ranks of probation staff.  One of the worst offices in the country is Feilding where incompentent and dishonest people who would never be employed elsewhere hide behind the guise of being human beings.

Unable to attract or hold on to staff there has been a subtle move to import staff from the UK.  In one office alone we find two examples of people with bad attitudes and Chris Yarwood, a retired detective from the UK tells everyone he meets that he is “as honest as the day is long”.  Such self professed honesty is akin to second hand car dealer John who feels the need to call himself “Honest John’s Car Sales”.  Yarwood is in fact as bent as they come and brings to the job of Service Manager at Napier Probation a serious attitude problem that reflects down the ranks.

Paul Grundy - epitomizes everything that's wrong with Corrections

Paul Grundy – epitomizes everything that’s wrong with Corrections

Working under Yarwood’s management is another UK import and British Army reject Paul Grundy.  The only language Grundy knows is confrontation and disrespect.  He is lazy and only does the minimum of work to keep ahead of the pack, this is reflected in some of the reports he writes.  For example some months ago he wrote a brief report on an address in rural Hawke’s Bay, purporting that the property was unsuitable for electronic monitoring because there was no Vodafone signal.  However when a local lawyer and technician went out to the property this claim proved to be entirely false.  Another reflection of the inaccurate reports that probation staff so frequently place before the courts.

As long as the Department of Corrections is littered with such human garbage and limited intellect staff management will continue to devote a disproportionate amount of time and energy in to covering up the consequences that these staff create on an almost daily basis.

All those named in this article were invited to comment but have not done so.

The Accomplice

All Corrections staff are fine upstanding individuals who can do no wrong, never lie, and care deeply about those whom they are there to serve.

Vincent Arbuckle

Mr Vincent Arbuckle

At least that is what Department of Corrections General Manager Corporate Services Vince Arbuckle would have us believe.  Arbuckle’s belief in his staff is such that he recently wrote to Initiative and asked us to remove the articles and comments about Corrections staff and himself.

In that letter he suggests that the articles are “defamatory” and that the most appropriate way to make any wayward Corrections staff accountable is to lay a complaint with the Department itself.  However history, the Courts, the Ombudsmen’s  Office and the Coroner have all in recent history confirmed that the Dept of Corrections is completely incapable of dealing with their own staff or even complying with the law.  The Corrections Inspectors are a joke, well it would be funny were the consequences of their biased whitewash of complaints so serious.

Indeed time again there are well documented examples of Corrections simply ignoring the overwhelming weight of evidence.

Katrina Casey ...gone but not forgotten

Katrina Casey
…gone but not forgotten

Former General Manager Community Probation Services Katrina Casey was provided with all the evidence that proved without the slightest doubt that her employeey is a liar and incapable of doing her job.  Yet after what Casey purported to be a thorough investigation she concluded that this low life had done no wrong.  An incredible conclusion that was and remains defiant of any fact or logic and demonstrates the inherent dishonesty that prevails within management.

When Vincent Arbuckle wrote to Initiative requesting the removal of those articles we offered to consider doing just this if he was prepared to re-investigate the behaviour of his dishonest and/or incompentent probation officer based on all the evidence against her.  No surprises then that he has gone to ground and not responded.  Arbuckle knows very well that any robust investigation would not produce a result that is in line with the propaganda image he wants to present of Corrections staff.

From Arbuckle’s letter:

I strongly encourage the author responsible for these articles to consider the impact of their actions on others before publishing future articles.”

It seems that Mr Arbuckle simply does not get it or has just lost the plot.  It must be a very stressful job having to constantly cover up for staff incompetence and dishonesty.

If Corrections management had done their job properly in the first place it would not have been necessary to publish that or any other article.  So readers can draw their own conclusions from the fact that Initiative has not removed any articles, nor will we be brow beaten in to doing so by Arbuckle or anyone else.   That sort of bullying is unacceptable in any part of society but does serve to demonstrate the bully boy attitude of senior Corrections management.

Jodi Jeffrey's accomplice SEAN ROBBINS

SEAN ROBBINS – lying is second nature

In this context then let us look at probation officer Sean Robbins.  Robbins works alongside one of the most evil and corrupt probation officers in the country at the Feilding office.  He claims to be an expert on electronic monitoring and the equipment used for this.  However the evidence has proved Robbins to be not only technologically inept but a liar.

Robbins was party to the same false reporting and lies that a feilding based probation officer put her name to and placed before the Courts.   He deliberately misrepresented results of signal testing for electronic monitoring at a property in the Manawatu, in order to support the lies of his colleague and meet the agenda of his Corrections masters.  What made it so much easier for him to get away with this is the knowledge that his managers would support and cover up even the most blatant of lies.  In this instance there was even an affidavit from a lawyer who was present, that confirmed the dishonesty of both Robbins and his colleague.

It is because of the existence of Corrections staff like Sean Robbins and his corrupt colleagues in the feilding office that Initiative will continue to report on any evidence based examples of lies, corruption, incompetence, malicious behaviour or just plain stupidity.  The individuals and Corrections management need to understand that when staff act in such a dishonest manner it has consequences.  Up until now those consequences have been solely for the hapless victim of their corrupt mindset and behaviour.  It could well be argued that the personalities of these people is such that destroying the lives of others through their lies and corruption gives them pleasure.

Now Initiative seeks to ensure that if Corrections management will not willingly bring about accountability and consequences for such staff then Initiative will do everything within the law to ensure that this occurs through other avenues.  Clearly we are already having an impact because recently Corrections has started sending out letters with the results of complaints that they have whitewashed in which the author does not identify him/herself by either job title or name and the signature of the letter is (deliberately) illegible.  Then there are the staff who send out emails from a generic info@corrections.govt.nz address and refuse to put a name to that email.  At astonishing practice for any Government agency or department and one that is exclusive to Corrections.  What are they afraid of?

The publication of earlier articles on corruption within the Department of Corrections has resulted in Initiative being contacted by a large number of people who have had similar experiences and as the evidence is verified their stories WILL be published.

So Ray Smith, Vincent Arbuckle, Jeremy Lightfoot and colleagues, this places you on notice that Initiative will not be bullied and you need to look seriously at how such matters are dealt with both retrospectively and in the future.

None of those within Corrections whom Initiative approached for comment offered any response.

Where’s The Independence?

The lack of independence displayed by the Inspectors of Corrections has been a source of frustration to many almost since they came to exist.  Their blatant and arrogant failure to uphold complaints is well known and demonstrated by the fact that the Inspectorate only upholds 2% of complaints.  This figure is so low that it demonstrates serious flaws with the way the Inspectorate approaches its investigations and must raise alarm bells.

To describe their methodology as having any investigative basis is wrong, for if someone seeking to complain even manages to get as far as talking to an inspector, that in itself an uphill battle they can expect to face an up hill battle even getting someone to listen with an impartial ear.  Fairness and impartiality are not part of the qualifications needed for the job.  The mindset of the average inspector is to favour their Corrections masters at the cost of any degree of honesty or fairness.  There is no evidence based manner to the way investigations are carried out and the determination is to find a way, any way, to cover up for the colleagues that these same inspectors have often previously worked, played rugby with and got drunk alongside.

Grenville Bell Don't let the smile fool you!

Grenville Bell
Don’t let the smile fool you!

One of the Department of Corrections greatest legacies was long time senior prison inspector Grenville Bell whose skills at burying complaints are legendary.  He ruled the other inspectors with an iron will and had an amazing ability to “dispose” of any complaint in a manner that was favourable to his Corrections masters.

As a prison officer Bell was a well established member of the “stash and bash” brigade who hated all inmates with a passion that knew no bounds.

As an inspector he hated those whose complaints it was his responsibility to investigate and took the attitude that you never believe anything an inmate tells you.  This is a mindset that resonates within Corrections to this day.  His hate and disdain was openly displayed, oft with utter hostility toward anyone who dared to complain to him.  His arrogance and the blatant way he displayed this attitude is perhaps a prerequisite for the job of inspector and quietly encouraged by Corrections management.

It was not uncommon for an inspector new to the job to write a report and then have that document completely trashed by Bell and rewritten to show Corrections in a better light.  They soon learned to tow the line or get out.

In her investigation in to the infamous Paparua Prison “Goon Squad” Alicia Duffy QC made harsh criticisms of the Department of Corrections’ senior inspector Grenville Bell.  Despite such a pitiful report card Bell continued in to role undaunted and with the same culture until his retirement.  In reality they should have got rid of him long before that but the Department of Corrections has a long history of ignoring criticism and carrying on with its own agenda regardless.

There is nothing that is independent about the current Inspectors of Corrections.  They have offices within the Department of Corrections, report to the Department of Corrections Chief Executive, have email addresses on the corrections.govt.nz domain and can be contacted by phoning Corrections head office.

Andy Fitzharris 40 year apprenticeship

Andy Fitzharris
40 year apprenticeship

Bell has disappeared in to retirement but his legacy of dishonesty remains.

The current Chief Inspector is Andy Fitzharris who was apprenticed to and learned his craft at Bell’s feet.

What has changed now is that Fitzharris has managed to create a regime where he and his colleague s are as inaccessible as they can possibly make themselves and it is as difficult as they can make it to complain.  Listen here to the message on the inspectors 0800 line and if you are still awake at the end of it your stamina is to be admired:



A high percentage of inmates are illiterate and most inarticulate.  To be confronted with a voice mail message like that would be utterly daunting and discourage many.  Perhaps this is precisely what it is intended to achieve.

In Queensland , where the  prison complaint system  is  more transparent and prisons are  more open to outsiders able to help prisoners articulate their complaints,  a high percentage of complaints are lodged (including online) by non-prisoners.  There is consultation with prisoners on prison policy.  Total complaint numbers are a fraction of those in NZ.  In this country multiple complaints are received about like issues, but nothing is done to resolve them, so the complaint numbers skyrocket and thus the inspectors justify their jobs.

One of the more offensive aspects of the inspectors methodology is that no matter how damming or irresponsible the actions of Corrections staff, their report would often be tempered with a rider commending staff for some other aspect of their involvement.

A recent example shows a lack of integrity and independence.  The prison inspectors were asked to investigate the failure of prison management to facilitate a lawyer visit.  Very quickly the inspector investigating, Trevor Riddle, came back with a conclusion that blamed everyone but prison management for the failure.  As an ex prison manager himself it seems Riddle is sympathetic to the failures of his colleagues.

Upon then being presented with evidence that prison management had lied to him, Riddle’s response is to duck for cover and refuse to address the problem.  In similar fashion to the IPCA mentality Corrections inspectors will turn a blind eye to the lies of management if it will permit them to dismiss a complaint.

The Corrections Inspectorate is incapable of even a semblance of independence and even when it is demonstrated that their conclusions are flawed, they stubbornly and with incredible arrogance dig in and refuse to budge.

Could this have been prevented?

Could this have been prevented?

It is very likely that had they done their jobs properly and actually listened to the concerns that were repeatedly being expressed to them, last year’s riots at Spring Hill might never have happened.

Andy Fitzharris and Corrections CEO Ray Smith failed to respond to requests for comment.

So where’s the independence?