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Inquiry Finds Prison Riot Well Managed

Inquiry Finds Prison Riot Well Managed

The official inquiry into last year’s prisoner riot at Spring Hill Corrections Facility found Corrections’ response was extremely well managed.

The inquiry looked into the circumstances and causes of the riot, which took place on Saturday 1 June 2013.

“We’ve learned from this event and taken recommendations on board to reduce the possibility of another similar disturbance,” said Corrections Chief Executive Ray Smith.

The inquiry found that ultimate responsibility for the violence, damage and destruction lay with the prisoners directly involved. The riot was triggered by prisoners consuming ‘home brew’ made from fermented fruit, and fighting between prisoners which led to staff being assaulted. Several other factors contributed, including the ability of prisoners to stockpile fruit and access alcohol-based hand sanitisers, as well as aspects of the design of the unit and how high security prisoners were being managed.

“I’m proud the inquiry recognised that individual staff members showed courage and commitment under very difficult conditions. Our Advanced Control and Restraint teams ended the riot safely and in extremely difficult circumstances. Staff have been recognised and commended for their actions and bravery.”

The inquiry recommended a number of improvements to the way prisons are managed, and almost all have been fully implemented. These include limiting the amount of fruit available to prisoners, reviewing the management of high security prisoners and removing alcohol-based hand sanitisers. Action is well underway for the remaining few recommendations.

The final cost to the Department for rebuilding the unit which was destroyed in the riot, with security and safety enhancements, is approximately $10 million.

A summary of the inquiry has been released (attached), but the whole report will not be released to protect the security of New Zealand prisons and because prisoners are still facing Court processes.

Twenty-three prisoners were charged with serious offences by the Police. Of those, eight pleaded guilty, and one was discharged. Four of the eight who pleaded guilty have been sentenced, with sentence lengths ranging up to five years and eight months imprisonment. For the remaining 14 prisoners, the court process continues.

The inquiry into the riot was led by a panel which included international representation. The panel consulted with the Ombudsman’s office over the report.

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