Prisoners will soon be watching transparent television sets rented from Corrections, under a new scheme to cut the smuggling of contraband.
Inmates are allowed to bring their own TVs into prison but staff must take the sets apart to search for drugs and other illicit items. Newer models must also have internet functions disabled.
Under the scheme proposed by the department, prisoners would instead rent clear, plastic sets for a few dollars a week. After the initial cost of buying the televisions, which has not been calculated, the scheme would be self-funded.
Corrections Minister Anne Tolley and chief executive Ray Smith saw a similar initiative in operation on a recent visit to Australian prisons. It is also in place across England and in some US states.
"This is a big issue for us in the prisons," Mrs Tolley said. "We have to take the prisoners' television sets virtually to pieces to make sure they are not bringing in contraband, and modern technology is disabled so they can't have surreptitious contact with the outside world.
"Both Queensland and South Australia actually provide televisions in clear, plastic cases and rent them to the prisoners. They don't have any of those hassles. Their officers said to me that it's easy when you search the cell because you can see if there is anything hidden in the back of the television set."
Mrs Tolley eventually wants education programmes provided to prisoners through their television screens. "It would have to be self- sustaining. Any profit that they make - it's only a little bit - can be used to fund those education programmes," she said.
Serco, the British firm which runs Mt Eden Prison, aims to put "custodial management system" screens in the 960-bed facility at Wiri.
It already operates the technology, which inmates use to order meals and access schedules and timetables, in its overseas jails.
Mrs Tolley is keen to see other initiatives from Australia imported into New Zealand prisons. Corrections is looking at biometric technology which could include fingerprint scanners controlling entry to two new reintegration centres planned for Taranaki and the Bay of Plenty.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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