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Prison building and containers

  • June 22nd, 2009

TV 3 did the bleeding obvious this morning. Unlike Radio New Zealand, who left  the odious Cosgrove to define their story in "debate" with Judith Collins, Oliver Driver on Sunrise  asked Corrections for some facts.

While waiting in TV 3’s Wellington studio to comment on criminal trial delays, I sat next to Corrections’ Derek Lyons. He explained that the containers are purpose built, and probably at least as comfortable as most cells.  Before they’re deployed we’ll see double bunking, from early next year. A client of mine will, I hope, be one of the tenderers to supply the accomodation.

Derek and I discussed (off camera) the facts no one seems to have raised yet – that many of New Zealand’s prisons were built or partly built by prisoners doing useful work.

Mt Eden is substantially built of stone quarried and shaped by prisoners.

I mentioned the prison officer I met at Invercargill Prison in 2004, who had a deep knowledge of the history of that prison, with many photographs. When it opened it was regarded as state of the art, the best in the British Empire. Parts of it were designed to be beautiful to uplift prisoners, as well as to intimidate. You could still see some of the beauty in the dining hall.

It was built by prisoners brought from Dunedin Prison to live in tents while they built their new home.

Sadly, the loss of effective control of prison discipline has resulted in horrible modifications.  When I toured the prison a grand staircase was about to be divided, because guards are no longer confident that they can stop attacks in stairwells if too many prisoners can access them at one time. 

A well equipped prison workshop that once made furniture for government offices all over New Zealand lay almost idle, because too few prisoners can be trusted not to turn tools into weapons.

Now of course no one can be made to work for their supper in a NZ prison.


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These cells are much like cells everywhere- in fact they would be better than most of the older facilities.
(I used to work in Corrections)

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