Corrections Minister Anne Tolley says officers in every prison are to have access to pepper spray to improve safety for frontline staff, following a successful twelve-month trial.
The 2011 trial found that pepper spray is an effective tactical option and deterrent, which can reduce the risk of injury to both staff and prisoners in some potentially violent situations.
Officers will not routinely carry pepper spray on their belts, due to the risk of prisoners assaulting staff and stealing the spray, which could then be used against officers and other prisoners.
“The number of serious assaults on prison staff has fallen dramatically, down 75 per cent over the last fifteen years,” says Mrs Tolley.
“However, we are continually looking at ways to improve safety for frontline staff, who have to deal with dangerous and violent individuals.
“All prison staff will now be trained in the tactical use of pepper spray, while the strict regulations surrounding its use will be streamlined for quicker approval.
“It should also be noted that the majority of staff and all prison managers interviewed during the trial were opposed to pepper spray being carried on officers’ belts.”
The trial took place in ten prisons, with pepper spray being deployed once and approved for use, but not implemented, on three other occasions.
“Pepper spray is another important tool for Corrections officers,” says Mrs Tolley.
“The National-led Government has already improved conditions for staff by introducing stab-resistant vests, batons and spit-hoods for those working in high-risk situations, and alongside training in de-escalation techniques this is making our prisons safer.”
The report can be viewed at: http://www.corrections.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/613190/Pepper_Spray_Trial_Evaluation.pdf