Prisoner claims rights breached over TV hire

Prisoner Kerryn Mitchell spends her $2.70 weekly allowance on coffee, fruit and phonecards, so she struggles to understand how she will afford to rent a television.

The Corrections Department wants to introduce the rental scheme in an effort to reduce the amount of contraband smuggled into prisons in inmates' personal TVs - but Mitchell has brought a High Court case claiming the removal of her own set is a breach of her rights.

The scheme removes the right of prisoners to bring their own TVs into prison, replacing them with department-issued clear-framed sets that can be rented for $2 per week.

Prisoners who earn less than $5.40 a week are charged only $1, and in special circumstances the sets can be provided free.

Mitchell, who has brought previous cases against Corrections, including one in which she argued that she should have received The Dominion Post, told the High Court at Wellington she was not opposed to the scheme in principle, but to the way it was being implemented.

There would be prisoners such as her, with a high-security rating and in segregation, who would be unable to work and earn money to supplement their minimum allowance.

With only $2.70 a week to spend, Mitchell said feeding her caffeine addiction came first, followed by fruit and phonecards so she could talk to her family.

But Crown lawyer Charlotte Griffin said Mitchell would have to pay only $1 a week and quite possibly have a good case for a free television when the scheme was introduced in July.

Justice Stephen Kos said Mitchell had several valid points, but it was impossible to tell whether her rights would be impinged until the scheme was introduced.

He reserved his decision.

The Dominion Post