Leaked report reveals rise in prison assaults

Prisoners are most likely to attack their guards on Monday mornings, typically by punching them in the head. If they use a weapon, it is most commonly hot water, tea, or urine, thrown in the guard’s face.

Prisoners have also used food trays, chairs, pool balls and wood to attack guards, but rarely use knives, according to an internal Corrections Department report leaked to the Sunday Star-Times.

The report, which covers all prison assaults since July 2003, says assaults on staff increased from 1.7 per 100 prisoners to 4.3 per 100 in 2007-08, and total notified assaults increased by 3.85 per 100. The report suggests a noticeable rise in 2006-07 could be linked to the increase in the prison muster at that time.

The report comes amid concern over rising violence in prisons, including the killing of prisoner Tue Faavae this month at the maximum security unit at Auckland Prison. A visiting Australian union leader, Colin Rosewarne, described Paremoremo as “putrid” and Mt Eden as simply “archaic”.

In a report commissioned by the Corrections Association, which represents prison officers here, Rosewarne, an executive officer of the Australian Community and Public Sector Union’s prisons division, said he found lax security, shortages of guards, prisoner unruliness and poor hygiene.

The Corrections Association says prison understaffing has led to an intolerable amount of violence. Prisons are “a powder keg”, said union president Beven Hanlon.

Corrections, however, said the department took assaults on staff “extremely seriously” and was working to reduce them.

The internal report noted that Monday is the most risky day for all prison assaults, including attacks by prisoners on other prisoners and visitors. The report says prisoners used hot water, brooms, soap in socks, boots, a homemade knife and a pool cue against one another.

Many assaults take place after the guard has tried to enforce prison rules or asked the prisoner to do something, according to the report, which says it is concerned at the number of incidents showing a lack of active management skills by the officer.

“Incidents are escalated quickly into physical confrontations and there is no clear approach, other than using force, for dealing with a prisoner refusing a lawful order,” says the report.

“One incident clearly shows the officer antagonising the prisoner by stating ‘stop making empty promises’, in reference to the prisoner wanting to assault the officer. This resulted in the officer being punched in the face.

“Another incident report notes that the officer told the prisoner to ‘stop acting like a dog’. This also resulted in the officer being punched in the face.”

Punching accounted for 36% of assaults on guards, pushing 20%, and sexual assaults 2%. Punching accounted for 30% or prisoner assaults on prisoners, and sexual attacks 8.6%.

“Four of these [13] incidents stated that the prisoner was raped,” the report said.

Most assaults occurred in the morning between 9-10am. This may be linked to the high number of prisoner movements at that time – for instance, to exercise yards. Saturday has the lowest average rate of assaults.

Rimutaka Prison has the highest assault rate among large prisons (more than 450 prisoners). Among the reasons, the report says, may be the high number of remand prisoners detoxing from drugs or alcohol; limited constructive activity; prisoner frustration at delays in the court process; and the fact that 47% of the staff had less than two years’ experience.

Rolleston prison had the lowest rate of assaults among medium- sized prison, possible reasons including the fact that 90% of prisoners went to work each day and the presence of considerable numbers of sex offenders, “who are very compliant”.

Arohata women’s prison had the highest assault rate among small prisons. The report says possible reasons include remand prisoner’s “issues with gang affiliation and ‘marking their territory”‘, and the effect on women of being separated from children and families.

ACC claims for “assaults and altercations” by Corrections Department staff cost $1.5 million between March 1999 and August 2008, the report notes.

source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/2282988/Leaked-report-reveals-rise-in-prison-assaults


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