Teen inmates attack officers

Two Hawke’s Bay Prison officers were taken to hospital yesterday after being viciously attacked by two 17-year-old inmates at the prison’s Youth Unit.

The officers were carrying out their normal duties in the unit at noon when they were approached by the youths and “assaulted without warning”, Department of Corrections chief executive Ray Smith said.

Fellow prison officers acted quickly to stop the attack.

“The situation was managed extremely well,” Mr Smith said.

“I am very proud of the skill staff demonstrated in resolving the situation as quickly as they did and without further incident.”

Both men were taken to Hawke’s Bay Hospital for assessment. One was discharged this morning, while the other remained in a stable condition.

It was not clear what injuries they received as a result of the attack.

“What we do know at this stage is that their injuries were not life threatening,” Mr Smith said.

It also wasn’t known what caused the prisoners to lash out.

“At this stage we have no other information as to why the two prisoners assaulted staff.”

The fire service was also called to the Youth Unit shortly before the attack when furniture was set on fire.
One fire truck remained on standby at the unit until the incident was over.

Yesterday’s incident is the third at Hawke’s Bay Prison in as many weeks, and follows a roof top stand-off and a copycat protest where prisoners refused to go back into their cells after a deliberately lit fire caused an evacuation of their cell block.

Police are yet to charge the prisoners involved with the roof top protest, but an investigation into the incident is under way.

Corrections officer and Corrections Association president Bevan Hanlon this month told Hawke’s Bay Today guards and prisoners were “on edge” following the first two incidents.

He claimed fewer staff and decreased prisoner “unlock hours” had added to the unrest.

Mr Smith said there was no evidence to suggest the incidents were linked.

“It is unfortunate that the staff at Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison have had to deal with three successive incidents.

“Our staff deal with some of society’s most dangerous and unpredictable people on a daily basis – I am confident that my staff do their job very well in what can only be described as an extremely challenging work environment. The prisoners involved with yesterday’s attack face internal misconduct charges, and if found guilty will be subject to disciplinary actions, including cell confinement and loss of privileges.

“Disciplinary action can be taken in addition to a prisoner having their security classification reviewed, which can result in them being moved to another prison site. I will not tolerate my staff being injured and we will be ensuring that the prisoners involved face the full consequences of their actions.”

The entire Youth Unit was secured after the assault and all prisoners locked in their cells.

The unit is separate from the main prison site and surrounded by two perimeter fences.

Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar said recent events at the prison showed a need for change.

“There are a lot of prison officers that have made contact with us over the years who have been quite concerned that policy has been altered, and the ability to manage prisoners has been removed from them.

“Prisons should be humane environments but the officers need to be able to command respect. Obviously these people did not respect authority when they committed crimes out on the streets.”

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