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Black Day In NZ Prison History

The 3rd of December 2000 will be remembered as one of the worst days in New Zealand's prison history, with one prisoner dying in custody, and another walking out of a private remand facility during visiting hours.

Spokesman for the Howard League for Penal Reform, Peter Williams QC, said today that the escape of the prisoner from the Auckland Central Remand Prison showed that the concept of private prisons was flawed from the start.

"I think it is the duty of the state to conduct the running of its own prisons, and the fact that the state may not always conduct the prisons adequately or properly is not an excuse for bringing in private contractors," he said.

The remand facility, opened in June, is run by Australian Correctional Management and has drawn fire from prison reform groups and former officers about the ratio of staff to prisoners, and the training levels of some prison employees.

24 year-old August Lemon, who is also known as August Broughton, placed a dummy in his bed and walked out of Auckland Central Remand Facility during visiting hours.

Police say Lemon, who was on remand accused of charges including aggravated wounding, may be heading north from Auckland and should not be approached by members of the public.

The escape follows the death of a 19 year-old man held in a cell at Mount Eden Prison on Sunday.

Peter Williams QC said that he would visit the prison this afternoon with Marie Hasler MP and the lawyer who represented the deceased, to see the conditions of his cell and ask about the treatment he received.

"It is premature for me to make any judgements before I have any details, but I can say this: The prison is a mediaeval dungeon, it is conducive to depressive illnesses and as we all know, the main cause of suicide is depressive illness."

Mr Williams said a person of 19 years of age should definitely not have been held in Mount Eden Prison.

"I think there will be more questions asked about that," he said.

Department of Corrections spokesman Brendan Moynihan said incidents such as yesterdays were tragic and distressing to everyone at the prison - staff and other inmates.

“The prison chaplain and local kaumatua will be available to provide support to inmates. Counselling will be offered to all staff who were involved," he said.

“This is a sad time for the inmate’s family and friends. Our thoughts are with them," said Mr Moynihan.


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