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Waikeria Prison

Written By: - Date published: 10:16 am, January 3rd, 2021 - 95 comments
Categories: crime, labour, maori party, national, prisons, same old national, Social issues - Tags:

The stand off between prisoners and Corrections staff in Waikeria is now entering its fifth day.

Prison conditions are the primary cause.  Stuff has published this description of conditions from a prisoner in Waikeria who is not part of the group currently holed up.

An inmate at Waikeria Prison has described the 43 hours he was in lockdown while prisoners from its “top jail” were evacuated on December 29.

A group of 16 inmates are holed up on the jail’s roof after starting a riot and lighting fires in the prison yard on Tuesday afternoon.

“We got the call about 1.45pm that there was to be an emergency lockdown and we all went to our cells, compliant”, said the prisoner, who cannot be named.

”We weren’t served our dinner until 10.30pm and some of us didn’t receive our nightly medication on time.

“We were asking for fresh water but were getting refused. It was about 32 hours before we got some fresh, cold water.”

The inmate said he had not spent any time in the top jail but understood the criticism around its poor condition.

“They are pretty much arguing for the same things as everyone else, essential needs that we don’t get, like cleaning products, our medical needs, food, good clothing kit.

“The water here is terrible, if you let it settle you can see all the sediment fall to the bottom.

“From what I understand, the top jail, the living conditions there are pretty appalling.”

Inmates are not the only ones complaining.  Ombudsman Peter Boshier, who is dedicated to his role and upholds the finest traditions of his office and of the need for independence, had his office make a surprise visit to the prison in October 2019.  His report about the visit describes the prison in this way:

Waikeria Prison (the Prison) opened in 1911 and is situated south of Te Awamutu. It can hold 803 remand and sentenced tāne1 with security classifications ranging from minimum to high. Over 27 percent of tāne are on remand, and 24 percent are serving sentences in excess of four years. Tāne held at the Prison come from across the country but predominantly from the Bay of Plenty region. The prison has a large Māori population (approximately 67 percent).

I authorised my Inspectors to conduct a nine day inspection of the facility in October 2019, using defined criteria to assess the standards of treatment tāne were experiencing, and their living conditions.

Prison conditions significantly varied between the high and low security complexes. Most tāne in the high security complex (HSC) were double-bunked in cells originally designed for one, and living conditions were poor. Tāne in the HSC were subject to a basic yard-to-cell regime and limited activities. In contrast, the low security complex (LSC) was spacious, clean, tidy and outdoor areas well maintained. The provision and quality of clothing and bedding was problematic across both complexes.

The Separates Units in both the HSC and LSC were no longer fit for purpose, compounded by the lack of natural light, poor ventilation and small cell sizes.

The Prison had a 12 month dispensation from the National Commissioner Corrections Services to mix remand accused with remand convicted tāne, due to the number on remand and the limited number of high security beds. Remand tāne who had been assessed as low risk were placed in the LSC. This resulted in better conditions and access to more purposeful activities for a significant proportion of remand accused tāne.

Levels of violence in the Prison were high and accounted for 22 percent of all incidents over a 12-month period. The Prison had the second highest gang population (44 percent) in the country.

He said this about the higher securities complex:

The HSC environment is not fit for purpose and is impacting adversely on the treatment of tāne, presenting the Prison’s leadership team with significant challenges. I am aware a new 600-bed facility is under construction at the Waikeria Prison site. I am told the new prison will include a 100-bed mental health facility co-designed and co-run between the Department and the Waikato District Health Board. The anticipated opening date for the new prison is 2022.

I welcome the building of this new facility which will improve conditions for tāne. I look forward to seeing these developments, including the increased provision in mental health care for tāne experiencing mental distress.

His recommendations included the following:

  • Measures are taken as a priority to ensure the poor conditions in the Separates Units are addressed. Cells must be clean, free from graffiti, well lit and well ventilated.
  • Cells and facilities in the HSC should be clean, free from graffiti and well lit. Toilets and showers, ventilation, and exercise yards should be in full working order and offer privacy for tāne.
  • Tāne should not be required to eat meals in their cells in proximity to an uncovered toilet.

The prisoners’ complaints about mistreatment have some pretty substantial backing.

National has been having a lot of fun with the issue and has been asking where Kelvin Davis has been.  They think he should ride in on his white charger and sort the matter out.

In that particularly myopic way they have of analysing the past they have laid the blame on Kelvin’s shoulders, without commenting on why Waikeria Prison has been allowed to disintegrate so badly over such a long period.

At the announcement of the new upgrade to the prison made in June 2018 Kelvin Davis said this:

One of the first prisons I visited after becoming Minister was Waikeria.

And the first thing that I thought was: This place is horrific.

The yards are like animal cages. It was first designed 100 years ago and isn’t fit for purpose for either staff or prisoners.

Now, I know prisons shouldn’t be resorts.

Offenders must face consequences – and the loss of freedom is punishment for the crimes people commit.

But in saying that, we shouldn’t be sending people to prison to become better criminals rather than better people.

We all know the state that our prison system is in.

We have 10,600 people inside a network designed to house 9,254.

That is too many people.

Too many people already inside our prisons cells, and far too many people looking to join them.

And most importantly, too many victims.

We inherited a network that was already under stress and heading even further in the wrong direction.

We as a country have a real problem.

And we need to be real about the solution.

There is no silver bullet, no single tweak we can make to legislation that is going to address the problem overnight.

The solutions we are putting in place will be tough – but it is a good start.

This proposal scaled back National’s earlier proposal for a 1,500 bed PPP project announced by Judith Collins in 2016.  It reflected Labour’s desire to drive down the rate of incarceration while at the same time providing adequate and civilised facilities for inmates and keeping the provision of facilities under state control.  The desire to utilise private funding and management of the prison was made against the backdrop of the absolute circus that Serco had made of Mount Eden Prison.

There has been two recent instances of oppositioning by opposition MP’s about the stand off.  One example is very good.  The other is appalling.

Tha Maori Party’s Rawiri Waititi should take a bow.  This Newshub article sets out the reasons why:

Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi has been granted access inside Waikeria Prison, after calls from inmates to help end the four-day standoff.

Sixteen inmates remain holed up in what’s known as the ‘top jail’, a unit built in 1911 the group have destroyed by lighting fires, which still burn.

Late Thursday night Corrections confirmed one inmate had surrendered, but 16 men remain “non-compliant”.

Inmates earlier said Waititi was the only person they wanted to negotiate with. Corrections initially declined his offer.

The inmates have been protesting the allegedly inhumane treatment they’ve been subjected to.

Waititi says “a number of prisoners” contacted him directly to discuss their concerns.

“I’ve heard their call and I am making my way to Waikeria to meet with them, to listen, to support their call for justice and work towards a solution,” he said.

“They deserve the right to be treated humanely, with fresh water, food and clean clothing and they deserve to have someone advocating for them.”

He has been exercising his right under section 161 of the Corrections Act 2004 which states:

(1)  Any member of Parliament may, whenever the member considers it appropriate, enter a prison and examine it and the condition of the prisoners, and may inform the prison manager of his or her observations.

(2)  The prison manager must ensure that any observations of a member of Parliament are recorded and that a permanent record of those observations is kept at the prison.

(3)  A member of Parliament is not entitled, under subsection (1), to communicate with any prisoner except in relation to—

(a)  his or her treatment in the prison; or

(b) a complaint that prisoner makes about that treatment.

The very bad oppositioning, also known as grandstanding, has been engaged in by Simeon Brown and Barbara Kuriger.

The purpose of the section is to enter the prison to talk to prisoners and check out how they are.  Entering a prison to tell the Prison Director how to suck eggs does not fall within the intent of the section.  If they really want to talk to him they can ring him.  And there has to be a tension between exercising the right and ensuring the safety of not only yourself but of the Corrections staff.  Simeon should really try harder.

But resolving this is not National’s goal.  They just want to watch it all burn, because the politics is better for them if it does.

This will be an unpopular opinion but the last thing that I would want is a Minister overseeing such an incident and calling the shots.  Politicians should stay well away from these sorts of events.

Why is Waititi’s involvement helpful but Davis should keep out?  It is because of the different roles played.  Waititi is providing representation and a communication conduit.  Davis is in a position of authority and these decisions are operational.

I hope this gets resolved peaceably.  Time will tell.

Update:  media reports are that the prisoners have surrendered.  From the Herald:

The 16 inmates who overran Waikeria Prison last week have finally surrendered, Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi says.

The group had been evading capture on the jail’s roof after starting a riot and lighting damaging fires in the prison yard on Tuesday afternoon.

They had been making threats at staff and police, throwing debris at them from the roof of the buildings.

The inmates were protesting about a number of things, from their water reportedly being brown, bedding being unclean, and being fed food from paper bags.

Waititi, the MP for Waiariki, says people must serve the time for their crimes but they deserve to be treated in a humane way.

“Even prison guards acknowledged to us that the state of the unit was unacceptable,” he said.

Congratulations to Rawiri Waititi.

Now let the politicking continue.

And before criticise Kelvin Davis can I suggest something which proves that his respect for operational independence was the correct decision.  Imagine if Judith Collins had been calling the shots on this.

95 comments on “Waikeria Prison ”

  1. millsy 1

    This is the result of 25 years of importing US style prison culture and designs into this country, and giving Garth McVicar and the SST veto power over justice policy.

    National are perfectly fine with locking up people in cages and letting them kill each other, which is in line with the Calvinist idea of permanent penance and suffering for any and all sins.

    I wouldnt be suprised if this boils over to other prisons.

    The first step to prison reform in this country is to drop the name "Department of Corrections" and stop calling prisons in this country "Correctional Facilities".

    • ROFL 1.1

      Don't forget the [deleted] who are leading the riot.

      [ the following has neither a substantiating link nor substantiation – be advised that this is probably a complete lie or at best a half-truth. This is a moron doing a dog-whistle. ]
      Kicked out of Australia for been of bad character now setting fires in NZ prisons.

      [lprent: I will let this through – following ROFL’s technique. I have removed a potentially defamatory assertion of fact that wasn’t supported. I have postulated a dog-whistle about the author of the comment based their previous behaviour. ]

      • Poission 1.1.1

        Just because you can't see the moon doesn't mean its not there.


        Whether it was a factor in the riot however is an open problem,as is that they (the rioters are more then likely gang members with a 1 in 2 chance)

        • lprent

          you can't see the moon doesn't mean its not there.

          Sure but I didn't see any evidence in the comment or the post or in other comments at the time. But when I'm moderating and someone wants to make an assertion of fact, then they are responsible for providing evidence of the fact. Making an dogwhistle insinuation is, to me, exactly the same same as asserting a fact.

          Besides in the 12 odd years that ROFL has left comments here, they do this kind of dog whistle all of the time. They have been told many times what the policy is.

          But hey – if someone wants to make a assertion of fact that the moon is responsible for tidal waves – then I’d want to see some evidence provided for that as well.

      • Sacha 1.1.2

        Experience sets expectations. Maybe Aussie prisons have better standards than ours?

        • millsy

          "Maybe Aussie prisons have better standards than ours?"

          From what I understand, Australian prisons are just as shit-holey, if not more,.

          • Sacha

            Perhaps they learned being polite did not change that? Plus their gangs seem more ruthless than ours.

          • WeTheBleeple

            I can only speak about Wacol in Australia. It was an order of magnitude less of a shithole than Waikeria.

  2. Treetop 3

    I am not a fan of double bunking in prisons. To have someone constantly sharing a space would be stressful.

    Is enough fruit veges and iron on the menu?

    The way to resolve tension in a prison is to find out what the cause of tension is. To offer activities which encourage a positive change in the lives of those detained. It is time that more dollars were spent inside to better prepare for release. As well more support on release.

    • Forget now 3.1

      I doubt that fruit and veggies are in ample supply, nor would they be a sufficient fix by themselves:

      Our drinking water in prison is brown. We have used our towels for three straight weeks now. Some of us have not had our bedding changed in five months. We have not received clean uniforms to wear for three months – we wear the samer dirty clothes day in and day out. We have to wash our clothes in our dirty shower water and dry them on the concrete floor. We have no toilet seats: we eat our kai out of paper bags right next to our open, shared toilets.


      • Treetop 3.1.1

        Most of the stuff in your link can be fixed and needs to be.

        I had scabies 30 years ago and it was awful. It did nothing for my temperament. It went for weeks. Probably scabies out breaks due to the poor washing facilities and issuing of bed linen etc.

  3. Andy 4

    The map you have on this post doesn't show the top jail – the higher security unit, which is the focus of the riot and burning. You have missed it.

  4. Sacha 5

  5. Sabine 6

    so nothing is gonna happen then?

  6. Anne 7

    …they have laid the blame on Kelvin’s shoulders, without commenting on why Waikeria Prison has been allowed to disintegrate so badly over such a long period.

    Yesterday they (the two MP upstarts) were rabbiting on about Kelvin Davis refusing to front up as if he was responsible for the riot. Naughty boy Kelvin for 'running away and hiding'. 🙄

    As you say mickey, it is not for cabinet ministers to interfere in operational matters. The only thing they can do is ask to be kept up to date with developments. Davis cannot speak publicly. It is up to the Corrections chief to conduct all public communications.

    The two Nat upstarts know this of course. As I said on OM yesterday… they are not there to assist but to hinder.

    Those prisoners are being punished for their crimes by way of incarceration. While that is occurring they are entitled to humane treatment which they clearly are not getting. As someone said recently, there would be an outcry if dogs were kept in such conditions.

  7. Stuart Munro 8

    Absent Covid, the minister might well have stepped in already, and may yet do so.

    It remains to be seen whether Rawiri Waititi's contribution will be constructive, but talking to the prisoners is a necessary first step.

    Withholding food and water was probably illegal – but more to the point, it was unwise, and likely to prolong the confrontation.

    Gnat MPs do what Gnat MPs can – not much evidently.

    • Sacha 9.1

      Strong clear words from MP Rawiri Waititi: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/waikeria-prison-protestors-surrender-after-six-day-standoff

      Waititi praised the inmates for "standing up to fight for their rights" and "making the right decision to surrender".

      “They were ready to come down. Naturally, they were tired and hungry but still very determined to see change,” he said.

      “They have achieved what they set out to do when they embarked on bringing attention to their maltreatment in prison."

      “When injustice is normalised, defiance and protest is necessary. These men are the product of such injustices and through their protest they have changed the face Corrections forever.

      “Whilst people that do crime must serve their time, they must also be treated in a just and humane way.”

      Waititi said "even prison guards" had acknowledged the "state of the unit was unacceptable".

      “These men are not animals, they are humans; they are brothers, fathers and sons and are deserving of better treatment.”

      • Forget now 9.1.1

        As for the; do the crime – do the time, argument:

        He was agitated, he was hungry, he was thirsty… but he said he'd stick it out… at least he knows he's standing up for his rights and the rights of others who are going to be incarcerated in this prison."

        The woman said her cousin was only on remand for non-payment of fines and had a 6-month-old baby at home.


        • Sacha

          Surely there would have to be other factors for someone on remand to be in a more secure wing? Gang membership, for example.

          • Forget now

            You'd hope so Sacha. Though given that those on remand have not been (at least not yet) found guilty of anything, even alleged gang affiliation shouldn't be enough to get someone on remand thrown into that hole.

            Too many people for too few bunks seems a more likely reason.

    • mickysavage 9.2

      Thanks DV I have added this to the post.

  8. Sacha 10

    Imagine if Judith Collins had been calling the shots on this.

    Whole lot of pissing and gnashing, and a symbolic crushing of a double bunk some months later.

  9. Dean Reynolds 11

    One significant reason our prisons are overcrowded, with double bunking, etc. is because of the high number of remand prisoners, a direct result of National tightening bail requirements. Some remand prisoners wait for over a year before they're tried.To get thru this backlog of remand prisoners & reduce prisoner numbers, the government needs to appoint a whole lot more District Court Judges from the glut of lawyers we currently have, set up temporary court premises & have courts sitting 6 days a week, 8 am to 6 pm. Justice delayed is justice denied.

    • Sacha 11.1

      Thank you. That seems like a simple enough thing to get done this year. Maybe the fresh Minister of Justice can sort it.

  10. Gerald 12


    Just the investigation to come.

    I wonder if the penal abolitionists will get a mention?

  11. Anne 13

    Now that the rioting is over, Kelvin Davis has spoken at some length. Not surprisingly, he has come down hard on the prisoners concerned and yes… they are gang related:


    Hopefully out of this there will be an improvement in the conditions the prisoners are living under. My suspicion is, some Corrections staff have been using their power over these inmates to bully and provoke them into violent activity.

    Wherever you have a public or private agency where staff are in a position of power over a section of the public or their subordinates, you will find people with psychopathic tendencies. It is well known they are attracted to areas where they can dominate over others – Defence, Police, Health and Education services are probably the most well known but a prison environment would certainly be another.

    • Stunned Mullet 13.1

      My suspicion is you are incorrect.

      • Sacha 13.1.1

        Agreed. No evidence of mistreatment and nor have I seen any publicly claimed. All about the conditions in the prison.

        • Anne

          There was a news article a couple of days ago claiming prisoners were being bullied by some Corrections staff. Can't remember now which news outlet it was.

          Anyone who believes there are no bullies (on both sides of the fence of course) in a place like a prison is living in fairyland.

          • Sacha

            My suspicion is, some Corrections staff have been using their power over these inmates to bully and provoke them into violent activity.

            That is quite a specific claim. Don’t you think supporters of the protesting prisoners would have repeated it in more than one news story (if any)?

            • Anne

              Are you suggesting I made that up Sacha? Both the words "bully" and "mistreatment" were used in the bulletin and it might have been yesterday – not the day before. I think it was Waititi who made the claim.

              My sources are… the Herald, Stuff, TVNZ, Newshub and RNZ. I don't intend to waste time looking for it because I know what I read.

            • Sacha

              The brief 'manifesto' released by the protesting prisoners:


              We are not rioting.

              We are protesting.

              We have showed no violence towards Corrections officers – none whatsoever – yet they show up here in force armed with guns and dogs to intimidate us.

              We are the ones that are making a stand on this matter for our future people. Showing intimidation to us will only fuel the fire of future violence. We will not tolerate being intimidated any more.

              Our drinking water in prison is brown. We have used our towels for three straight weeks now. Some of us have not had our bedding changed in five months. We have not received clean uniforms to wear for three months – we wear the samer dirty clothes day in and day out. We have to wash our clothes in our dirty shower water and dry them on the concrete floor. We have no toilet seats: we eat our kai out of paper bags right next to our open, shared toilets.

              These are only very few of the reasons for the uprising.

              We are tangata whenua of this land. We are Māori people forced into a European system. Prisons do not work! Prisons have not worked for the generations before! Prisons just do not work. They keep doing this to our people, and we have had enough! There is no support in prison, all the system does is put our people in jail with no support, no rehabilitation, nothing. We have had enough.

              This is for the greater cause.

              • RedLogix

                Arrogant fuckers.

                The gangs are a cancer in the body of NZ. If they don't like prison, don't join the fucking gang and work up a rap sheet as long as your arm. They got there by inflicting pain and misery on other vulnerable people over and over again. They have no credibility and left makes a terrible mistake when it apologises for them .

                Can we imagine better alternatives to our present prisons? Yes of course. Other nations have pioneered different methods and approaches which we should damn well be looking at, and our failure to do so rests on successive govts for decades.

                We know that a stunningly large fraction of prisoners have some degree of traumatic brain injury, probably due to the all too frequent violence in their lives.

                We know that probably many could have avoided a life of crime with better diet, education, hearing and mental health support. The Dunedin Study tells us that we could pick out most of them by the age of 4; and we could strive to ensure they're protected from the intergenerational abuse cycle that tips them over into perpetrating more abuse as adults.

                There are so many ways the current criminal justice system falls short of ideal, yet it's the one we have to work with now, and it's the one that applies even-handedly to everyone person in the country. If you want a better system, argue for it, work for it, prove that you have an alternative that has better outcomes.

                But the implication here that because it's a 'European prison system' that somehow it should not apply to Maori is a bullshit attempt to evade responsibility for the urgent reforms that need doing. This is one issue where the left really needs to be crystal clear on, collective responsibility must be balanced and matched with personal accountability when it comes to crime.

                • Sacha

                  I don't think these guys would actually like what traditional Māori justice demanded for the crimes they have committed.

                  • RedLogix

                    Yup … there is that too.

                    I guess I am a little pissed off by this episode, because it's arrogant, idiotic attempts at intimidation like this completely undermine an already fragile case for reform with the vast majority of kiwis.

                    Everyone knows prisons are evil places, absolute shit holes. But the only way this can be played constructively is for the gangs to take personal responsibility for what they've done, apologise to their victims, seek to make ammends, disband themselves and commit to building better lives and communities. Only they can break the intergenerational cycle that sees far too many young men waste their lives in prison.

                    I've always seen crime as a triple tragedy, the hurt and pain to the victim, the shame and guilt the perpetrator brings into their own life, and the waste and loss to the community with so much young potential flushed down the drain.

                    Part of me understands why these guys rioted, violence and intimidation are pretty much the only tools the guys know how to use; but until they're willing to say 'we're truly ready to change' … nothing the rest of society can do will help.

                • Anker

                  Agree 100% Red Logix

                  A big shout out to Corrections who handled an incredibly difficult situation well with thankfully no loss of life. Hugely well done.

                  I would be interested to hear anything Pukish Rogue had to say about this situation given he works for corrections as a prison guard. A huge thank you to all those people who do and put their life and safety on the line everyday.

                  People who condemn prisons and want them abolished are hugely naive in my opinion. I suspect that most people who go to jail for serious offences against people are not likely to be able to be rehabilitated.

                  Just before xmas I heard a hugely encouraging stat about the rates of youth offending over the last 10 years decreasing due to the youth aid division of the police and early intervention. This is good and where the resources should go.

                  And yes REd Logix, thanks for quoting the Dunedin Study. We know pretty early on who is going to become criminals. Early Intervention then please (although I know the much maligned Orangi Tamariki contracts in a service for many of these kids).

                  I find it hard to believe the word of these prisoners who allegedly assaulted one of their own because he wanted to abandon the stand off. Nice. Not.

                  They may have some real grievances. But I would be more interested in the harm they have done to others and caring about them.

                  Sorry, I know this is not very progressive of me and I anticipate being challenged on my views.

                  • Incognito

                    Re. Puckish Rogue, he’s been trying to comment but they all go straight to the Trash folder in the back-end. If only he had made an abject apology to the SYSOP, he would not be serving his long sentence in the Blacklist and he could have joined us with his insightful commentary. I hope that one day he’ll learn that his actions on this site have (dire) consequences and only he can avoid and/or fix these. BTW, this is the only thing I’ll say about this.

                  • lprent

                    They may have some real grievances.

                    If nothing else, their description of the part of the prison they live in seem to be completely accurate.

                    Basically they appear to live in conditions that aren't too dissimilar to factory farmed animals. Which seems like a completely disproportionate response and hardly designed to prevent further events of this type.

                    It is simply stupid..

    • Sacha 13.2

      From that Herald story: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/waikeria-prison-rioters-surrender-after-six-day-stand-off-jail-conditions-not-reason-for-unrest-says-kelvin-davis/SMSJNJXMH2MOQYU5SRQUUO5KOY/

      Davis says the prisoners never raised any problems about their living conditions before protesting. He does not believe the men were protesting for the reasons they say they were.

      Davis thought the men wanted political attention…

      It will be interesting to hear what evidence he has for that stance.

      The Corrections CEO also seems to be claiming the conditions have improved since the Ombudsman's damning report:

      Water comes from a bore and treatment plant, tested six days a week, and there have been no concerns with the water, Lightfoot says. Staff use the same water.

      A number of steps have been taken to improve conditions in the top jail, including the repainting of some cells. Yards are checked daily and fixed when needed, Lightfoot says. There are increased resources in the property area so prisoners can receive them quickly.

      There are a number of channels for prisoners to make complaints or raise concerns, Lightfoot says. They include the Ombudsman, a form to fill out, and a free 0800 number for prisoners to call.

      About $10,000 is spent per month on replacement clothing at Waikeria.

      • Anne 13.2.1

        Davis says the prisoners never raised any problems about their living conditions before protesting. He does not believe the men were protesting for the reasons they say they were.

        My understanding is they have been making complaints but they were not getting through to the right people. In other words they were being discarded near the lower end of the process chain. If that is true then a few heads need to roll.

        • Stuart Munro

          Typically, an organisation that filters out negative feedback does so with the knowledge and complicity of its leaders. They know perfectly well whether the absence of complaints is a product of suppressing them or resolving them.

          • Anne

            So correct Stuart Munro. I had it happen to me many moons ago and it is something you never forget. Public Service too but nothing to do with prisons. 🙂

            • Stuart Munro

              Institutions suffer from remarkably similar pathologies. Chief among them is the habit of subverting or becoming antagonistic to the reasons they were created in the first place. Public service? Not so much – they are Babylon.

              • Anker

                Like it or not the public service Stuart is not to the prisoners, but to citizens who are protected from some pretty dangerous people. Our most dangerous people

                • Anne

                  I think you are miscalculating what Stuart Munro is talking about which is not about Corrections per se.

                  The old Public Service was indeed a public service. The 'Service' which took over after neo-liberalism was installed is a different beast. With a few exceptions, many of the agencies are now focused on making money rather than concentrating on providing a full on service to the community at large. There are plenty of examples of this floating around.

                  If it means covering up short falls, the odd bit of malpractice or some other flaw within their system, they will cover up in the interest of maintaining their prestige.

                  No-one is saying this has happened with Corrections because we don't know the full story yet. We are just surmising that it is possible.

                  • Stuart Munro

                    If there is any substance to Polly Gillespie's story, the prisoner complaint forms were not being issued. No complaints, no issues eh.

                    Should be pretty easy to check – the whole point of the PC01s being that they leave a paper trail.

                • Stuart Munro

                  Babylon refers to the insincerity of institutions which no longer meet the standards of customer or citizen care to which they must pretend to be allowed to continue to operate. It is a label the Rastafarians make much use of.

                  It did happen to corners of the old civil service back in the day – whatever Oranga Tamariki used to call itself had a few problems, as did institutions like Lake Alice. These were the ordinary operations of drift, which will from time to time need to be corrected.

                  Under neoliberalism, such problems are much more frequent, because on top of the usual drift there is capture, whereby, chiefly for financial reasons, the purpose of the institution changes radically away from the services it was created to provide.

                  Accountability usually is attributed to the heads of such organizations, because either they knew what was going on and were complicit, or they did not know, and were incompetent. In the case of the prison, there may be a paper trail showing management trying to remedy issues and being stymied by the ministry. If so, no very rigorous inquiry can be expected.

                  • Anne

                    It did happen to corners of the old civil service back in the day – whatever Oranga Tamariki used to call itself had a few problems, as did institutions like Lake Alice.

                    Indeed it did. My English grandmother developed Alzheimers (then known as Senility) and eventually had to be moved into Kingseat Hospital on the outskirts of Auckland. She didn't last long and my parents always felt uneasy about her treatment there but had nothing substantial to go on. Years later it transpired the most dreadful abuse had been occurring and the place closed down. I don't think either of my parents fully got over it.

                    However abuse at public institutions is a separate issue and the P.S. can't be judged on that basis. Earlier generations didn't have the knowledge, skill or the tools to be able to pick up the truth easily. Those who did know obviously kept their mouths shut – or were not listened to – which served to prolong the mistreatment for years as we are still finding out.

        • aom

          The other heads that need to roll are those at the top of the administration tree who that thought that depriving people of food and water was acceptable in a civilized country. It is not! Irrespective of what the ins and outs were for the action taken by the prisoners, torture is never acceptable.

          Obviously, we are now going to see much arse covering and even more pre-emptive bullshit from the Minister. Thank heavens the Maori Party are there to hold some feet to the fire. For once, political dishonesty is going to be fair game.

      • lprent 13.2.2

        They include the Ombudsman, a form to fill out, and a free 0800 number for prisoners to call.

        It makes you wonder if Corrections has asked the Ombudsman about complaints. because it pretty apparent from the Ombudsman's report that there have been complaints both directly and when they have been surveying prisoners.

        • Sacha

          The Ombudsman's recent report talks about Waikeria staff triaging which complaints get recorded on a form in the first place. Never a good sign in any genuine improvement system. Boshier is way too smart to overlook the implications..

  12. Anne 14

    My suspicion is you are wrong – again.

    • RedLogix 15.1

      I've long thought Davis was going to be good, and on this he's nailed it. yes

      • Andy 15.1.1


        Do you have a blog, Twitter? I like your take on things.

        • RedLogix

          Sorry the only place I'm on the net is here at The Standard since it's very inception in 2007 as it happens, although I'm sure there are some who've wished otherwise at times 🙂

          And I'm chronically allergic to Twitter/FB.

      • Jilly Bee 15.1.2


      • aom 15.1.3

        Yes, Kelvin Davis sure has nailed it. NZ has now proved it is not above breaching human rights in contravention of its own laws, by depriving people of food and fresh water to 'starve them out'. Another great success was concentration on gang affiliation to drown out the attention that was being placed on the appalling conditions we, as a country, allow to exist within the prison system.

        Perhaps the Minister's greatest success was to highlight the need for gangs as a social mechanism to protect its members. No-one joins gangs because they are socially empowered. They are the refuge of those whose life chances aren't enhanced by financial security and access to the power structures enjoyed by other social groups, such as business and professional organisations or even unions, such as they are following the neo-liberal onslaught of the 90's. Gangs don't have equitable access to politicians and certainly are not able to influence legislation that favours their interests. The most worrying aspect should be that Davis has sold the mystique of the P501 base that feeds the Australian gang culture of the Mongols and Comancheros, to cover the arses of his department. Great for recruitment, especially when the traditional NZ gangs that have been around for over 60 years seemed to be trying to work together to counter their alien influence.

        There are simple solutions to the abiding influence of the 'law and order' lobby but the Government has preferred to use the usual tools of hate and alienation to shore up the right of centre vote. So much for 'Be kind'.

        • RedLogix

          Perhaps the Minister's greatest success was to highlight the need for gangs as a social mechanism to protect its members.

          Absolute garbage. Gangs are a self-perpetuating cycle of crime and violence on their own community, and each other. People join gangs pretty much for a mix of two reasons, one is that they'll get the shit kicked out of them if they don't, and the other they get to kick the shit out of other poor bastards in order to promote their own social standing in their degenerate little world.

          by depriving people of food and fresh water to 'starve them out'.

          You know what, I really don't give a shit. They're in prison because they broke the law and fair enough the state is responsible for them. But if you go the next step and burn the prison down … you have stepped right outside of the law. All bets are off imo.

          • Forget now

            In my experience, people join gangs because they are a form of community for those abandoned by their families and country. How many gang members have you talked with RedLogix?

            But if you sincerely feel that prisoners aren't really people and don't deserve human rights, then surely you would, for consistency, demand that NZ should withdraw from UN treaties against torture? Sure, it would make the country look bad, but would be more honest.

            • RedLogix

              In my experience, people join gangs because they are a form of community for those abandoned by their families and country.

              Pretending that gangs are some kind of benign social club is pathetic. It's an intergenerational cycle of violence, alienation, crime and prison that keeps the gangs going. Sure they serve a social purpose for the individuals involved, but to use this as some kind of justification for the harm they inflict leaves me cold.

              As it happens no I don't talk with gang members, but I have listened to stories from their victims. Maybe I'm biased …

              • Forget now

                Not as pathetic as claiming to know the reasons why people choose to join gangs, without having talked to any of them RL. And no; they are certainly not benign social clubs, nor did I make any claim they were.

                But individual gangmembers are people, and Aotearoa should not be a country that condones or perpetrates, inhumane conditions tantamount to torture of any people. Otherwise what makes us any better than the gangs you revile?

          • aom

            Forget now: You are game taking on RedLogix (the pontificator) by expressing your own observations that are based on life experience. After all, he is one of those who likes to, "kick the shit out of other poor bastards in order to promote their own social standing in their degenerate little world." When RedLoxic has his prejudices fired up, he completely overlooks the fact that others have extensive knowledge and experience and know what they are talking about.

            RedLogix: Doubtless, while you have no qualms about expecting all your rights should be respected, your dismissive attitude toward others is very disturbing. Perhaps it would pay for you to brush up on the sagely words of Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller.

            • RedLogix

              Read carefully; I made it clear that the state has a clear responsibility for prisoners welfare in the ordinary course of events.

              But riot, set fire the the prison itself, then you've stepped over another line again, and the state is now compelled to respond at a new level. The correct answer is to use the least amount of force necessary to bring the uprising to an end. If that means turning the water off, and not serving them Christmas dinner with all the trimmings … so be it.

              • aom

                Yeah – what a load of drivel. The markers were there from the start that the situation could be resolved without so much destruction. Unfortunately, the course taken by the Department that very much reflected its power dynamics and distain for prisoners, was a predictable failure. As it transpired, the incident wasn't resolved by the illegal act of ignoring human rights that the country has incorporated into its laws. The wisdom, mediation skills, humanity and respect for other beings, as exhibited by Rawiri Waititi, proved that the system is well and truly screwed.

                Of course, at the end of the day, there will be no accountability on the part of the Department and the 16 who have exposed the shambolic state of our justice system and prisons will pay a heavy price. Meanwhile, the Government will keep humouring those who share the self-righteous and punitive attitudes you embrace to maintain its redneck share of the vote. Obviously it is too much to expect that the CEO and his Operations side-kick will be answerable for their egregious abuses of human rights.

                • RedLogix

                  Last I looked it was the Dept that is required to be in charge of the prisoners. Not the other way round.

                  • McFlock

                    well the department is also supposed to keep the prisoners in humane conditions. I guess it can't get anything right in that place.

                    • RedLogix

                      Good to see you defending thugs and criminals for once. Unlike that rapist Assange eh?

                      I'm quite certain that the older parts of our prison system need updating or replacing, but to describe them as inhumane is just more of the usual hyperbole.

                      Prison riots are not polite protests undertaken by law respecting people. They're ugly, dangerous, volatile situations that must be ended quickly and with the minimum force necessary.

                      Maybe you fancy your chances at dealing with one, but frankly it's the staff who have to manage their way through it under considerable pressure who have my sympathy here.

                    • lprent []

                      The point is not so much about how riots are dealt with. The problem is more about what causes them.

                      We don’t have to defend them – that is what the defence lawyers, prosecutors, and the courts will deal with. The actual actions.

                      But I notice that you are spending all of your time bad mouthing people you don’t know anything about. But spending absolutely no time aren’t even looking at the immediate causes for triggering behaviour. Perhaps you should look at the photos of site and the reported conditions that they have been stuffing people into.

                      Let the courts deal with the actions.

                      As far as I am concerned, Corrections largely brought this on themselves, because those conditions look like they are designed to cause riots. Sure there were some pig-ignorant politicians pushing bad policy. But ultimately Corrections staff were acting in a way that violates our laws and the treaties we have agreed to. Perhaps we should start bringing their decision makers into court for their actions.

                      Try looking at that. Because if we get the usual ignore the situations while throwing dirt at people, then we will start having regular outbreaks. Each causing even more repression and bad conditions in jails. This isn’t exactly hard to see if you look at the cycle that happens overseas. Each causing the cycle to keep moving dirt towards the remand prisoners as resources are shifted from rehab and processing speed towards riot suppression.

                      That is the issue I see after looking at the Ombudsman report. Makes me want to know more about the state of other prisons.

                    • McFlock

                      In a statement after the prisoners came down from the roof, HRC Chief Commissioner Paul Hunt said "important lessons must be learnt" from the uprising and recommended the Office of the Ombudsman investigate.

                      "The Ombudsman's team of investigators has been telling us for years that conditions in many of our prisons are sub-standard and do not meet basic international human rights requirements," he said.

                      More hyperbole from the hyperbolists rights commission /sarc

                    • solkta

                      It seems to me that the very first step before any [re]-habilitation can occur is for Corrections to obey the law. Otherwise the system just comes across as full of shit.

                    • RedLogix

                      The point is not so much about how riots are dealt with. The problem is more about what causes them.

                      A prison system is never perfect, there always be less than ideal staff, there will always be programs that are either under resourced, or just plain don't work. There will always be facilities that are either old, badly designed or just plain need updating at the margins. There will always be some part of the system considered 'the worst' that inmates will hate. And if you fix or replace that part, the definition of 'worst' will shift onto the next least desirable section of the system.

                      Can we continue to improve and upgrade the system in a planned fashion? Of course; and we do. Our prisons are nothing like they were 50 or 100 years ago, they're far better. Even this allegedly 'inhumane' top unit at Waikeria was once upon a time brand new and at the time considered perfectly acceptable. But standards have shifted and it's time to replace it. But all this is necessarily a process driven by the department, not the prisoners. And any messaging to the contrary is incredibly dangerous to the staff who have to work in these places.

                      But I notice that you are spending all of your time bad mouthing people you don’t know anything about.

                      Probably as a counterpoint to everyone else here who're portraying them as poor misunderstood victims of an uncaring world. Look I get it, they all have an appalling back story that's important to acknowledge in terms of their own personal rehabilitation. But it's incredibly difficult to help people, most of the time it doesn't work out. But that doesn't mean we should give up either, and the support programs planned and in place have my full 100% backing.

                      If the department has fallen short on delivering rebuilds and reforms that have been politically agreed to, then they do need to front up. They should not escape official scrutiny from this incident; but a public shifting of all the blame from the rioting prisoners onto public servants would be foolish mistake in my view.

                    • McFlock


                      Please provide evidence that the water was bad and prisoners were double-bunked when Waikeria was opened.

                      Your suggestion that the riots were merely caused by shifting standards of acceptability is irrelevant because the conditions are still unacceptable now, but it might be nice to have some evidence that it's even possible.

                      I mean we don't hang draw and quarter people any more, so if guards were doing that the prisoners might riot then, too. After lodging complaints and an Ombudsmen's report being published about it to no improvement whatsoever. But it was acceptable in a previous time so, gosh, I guess a riot would be terribly hard on the guards.

                  • Morrissey

                    RedLogix, it might be a good idea for you to stop ranting about prisoners; it is clear you have no expertise on the matter.

                    [This is ironic, coming from the arch-whiner himself!

                    And since when are you an expert on NZ prisoners, the NZ prison system, and Waikeria Prison in particular?

                    And who made you the arbiter of what people can and cannot say on this site?

                    Do you like shutting down fellow commenters whom you don’t agree with?

                    Address the comment, point out any deficits in information, knowledge, and/or expertise, in and of the comment, not in and of the commenter, and ideally provide counter-facts and/or an alternative view or explanation.

                    You did none of this. You played the man, as usual.

                    So, there is one of two ways this will go: either you lift your game or I will cancel you from this site.

                    Please don’t respond with a smart arse question feigning ignorance and/or one of those infantile GIFs, as you have been around here long enough to know how it works here – Incognito]

                    [lprent: And I’m getting really sick of seeing Morrissey being a pissant critic trying to run this site. Especially since he contributes fuck all. Almost a pity that you got to him first. 🙂 ]

      • lprent 15.1.4

        I've long thought Davis was going to be good, and on this he's nailed it.

        I don't think so. There isn't a single word about the motivations for the riot.

        If you look at the one section on that

        “There are many legitimate avenues for prisoners to raise concerns about their conditions, including through the independent Corrections Inspectorate and the Office of the Ombudsman. These prisoners used none of those avenues and never raised any issues prior to this event.

        My immediate response would be a question about how he knows about complaints to the Ombudsman? Did he ask? How much surveillance is made on complaints to the Ombudsman?

        Saying that there may eventually be a better place in the future is just simple minded PR. It doesn't address anything about the conditions that are or were in force to trigger an outbreak.

        This looks completely like the actions of a minister covering the arse of his department.

        About the only thing that is relevant to the situation appears to be the pious hope at the end.

        • Sacha

          Davis's statement will have been prepared for him by Corrections comms staffers. As usual.

  13. Andy 16

    Really enjoyed reading your comments on this article – the left getting on the bandwagon with the radical elements of the criminal justice reform movement is entirely counterproductive to achieving change.

  14. newsense 17

    Apparently Davis has commented and been less than convincing?

  15. Years ago I read a book by a guy who visited a US prison – in San Francisco, I think.

    The system there included a "grievance committee" (made up of prison officers and inmates) which allowed inmates' representatives to put their complaints to management.

    Dunno what the deal is in NZ, but something like that might have avoided the riot.

    An inquiry by an independent person will establish if the rioters' claims have any substance.

  16. Norman 19

    There's always a song that fits, always. Here its Joan Baez' Prison Trilogy (Raze the Prisons to the Ground). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwU7fkPnEOI

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