Locking teens up for 23 hours a day in Mt Eden prison 'unacceptable' - minister

The Ombudsman has criticised the management of teenage inmates in Mt Eden prison, Auckland.

The Ombudsman has criticised the management of teenage inmates in Mt Eden prison, Auckland.

Young prisoners at the privately-run Mt Eden prison have been kept in their cells for as long as 23 hours a day, leading to fears that someone could die if changes aren't made.

Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga says he is concerned about keeping young people locked up for unacceptable periods of time, but said prisons were meant to be "hard places".

The Mt Eden Corrections Facility, run by private prison operator Serco, has also been singled out for its lack of dedicated youth facilities in the Ombudsman's annual report for 2014/15.

Mt Eden prison in Auckland.

Mt Eden prison in Auckland.

An inspection in April 2014 had revealed young prisoners were let out of their cells for an average of five hours a day.

Despite recommendations from that report that Corrections review its policy, surprise visits in late 2014 and early 2015 revealed the time out of cells had "reduced considerably", with an average of only one to two hours a day.

* Serco-run Mt Eden prison falls to bottom of Corrections rankings
* Prison operator Serco goes to High Court over fight club report
* Serco could still lose Mt Eden contract as it faces $1m in failings fines
* Murderer Nikki Roper claims his letter for help was ignored by prison staff
* Convicted murderer critically injured at Auckland prison
* Minister knew about prisoner who 'fell'
* Opinion: Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga thrown under a train by Corrections bosses
* Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga confirms police were not called in to investigate inmate death   
* Prisoner death claim by Labour MP Kelvin Davis over fight club allegation

The report said young people in detention were "extremely vulnerable", and keeping them in their cells for too long could lead to deaths.

"Monotony, reduced environmental stimulation and social isolation, can be extremely distressing and potentially fatal."

The report said "renewed and urgent action" was needed to address the problems, while Corrections should also consider developing a dedicated youth unit at Mt Eden.

However, Corrections had indicated to the Ombudsman it had no plans to set up a youth unit.

Ad Feedback


The report comes as Mt Eden slid down to the bottom of the latest Corrections prison rankings, after being rated top in five previous reports.

Allegations of organised fight clubs and contraband issues emerged after recordings of incidents at Mt Eden were posted online, while a number of inmates have also made accusations of mistreatment

The Department of Corrections took over control of the prison in July after the allegations were revealed.

Labour corrections spokesman Kelvin Davis said keeping young people in their cells for long periods of time was likely to damage them and hinder their rehabilitation.

"When you're talking about young people, 18 and younger, they need longer out and about.

"They're still developing emotionally and to be locked up for that amount of time in a small cell probably with somebody else, it's just not good for them and it's pretty bleak."

Davis said there "absolutely" needed to be a separate youth facility for prisoners at Mt Eden.

"Their sentences generally tend to be shorter but we don't want them to become more damaged even though they're in there for a shorter period of time."

Mt Eden's drop to the bottom of the latest prison rankings reflected the "intensity and regularity" of problems at the facility, he said.


Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga said it was not acceptable for young people to be kept in their cells for too long, and young offenders at Mt Eden were now getting more time out.

He was concerned about any potential fatal consequences, but said prisons were "first and foremost about protecting the public" from criminals and violent offenders.

"That's the nature of our prisons...they are hard places."

There was currently "no demand" for a separate youth facility at Mt Eden, Lotu-Iiga said.

Lotu-Iiga said his previous support of Serco and its running of Mt Eden was based on its performance in Corrections prison rankings.

"I had confidence when they were at the top, clearly they've gone down - that [support] was subject to the information I had at that time."

The chief inspectorate's report into Mt Eden would be "key" to any decisions about Serco's contract, but he did not know when it would be publicly released due to Serco challenging it in the High Court.

"I'm hoping soon but it is subject to legal action, we'll see how it goes."


Corrections northern regional commissioner Jeanette Burns said the department's management team had lifted the standard of operations at Mt Eden since it took over in July.

Offenders aged 17 and under were now allowed out for between three-and-a-half to five hours a day, Burns said.

Young people were held on remand at Mt Eden for an average of 24 days, and were moved to a prison with a dedicated youth unit if sentenced to imprisonment.

Corrections had increased the range of activities for youth prisoners at Mt Eden, such as gym and exercise time, while they were trialling the concept of a "youth champion" to support young prisoners.

A Serco spokeswoman said laws preventing youth prisoners from associating with adult prisoners, and remand prisoners mixing with sentence prisoners, placed "significant pressure" on the prison to make sure they were not out of their cells at the same time.

"Staff managed a programme of rolling unlocks to ensure different classifications of prisoners were held separately."

Serco had proposed establishing a dedicated youth unit to give young prisoners greater flexibility, but it was declined on the basis that youth prisoner numbers were expected to decrease.

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers

Kids run Anzac stall to raise money for RSA

Max, 7, and Lila Harris, 5, donated $63 to the Titirangi RSA.

Max Harris, 7, said the idea "just went into his head and I decided to do it".

Kiwi wing will 'go extra mile'

Auckland-born Denny Solomona is set for his England rugby debut after playing rugby league for Samoa.

Born in NZ and capped for Samoa, but Denny Solomona will run through brick walls for Eddie Jones' England.

Brown discharge prompts protest

A culvert, built by a developer, has created a silt-stream that runs into Glendhu reserve where children play and make ...

Construction project's run-off creating a "horrendous breeding ground for God-only-knows-what to grow", protester says.

Fire causes 'substantial damage'

A large house fire near Warkworth has destroyed the rural property.

Occupants of the burning house - near Warkworth, north of Auckland - fled and are safe.


OBU, Norths top Swindale

Tawa's Pepesana Patafilo tries to break clear of the Johnsonville defence on Tuesday.

Two big wins for the leaders of the Swindale Shield on Anzac Day.

Tackling pre-loading

Police on Wellington's Blair St. Authorities are planning to close Blair and Allen streets on weekend nights to traffic ...

The boozing is so bad in central Wellington, two streets may need closing at weekends.

Mystery behind bright sky light video

The dashcam captured the bright light on Wellington's Featherston St.

People report seeing a meteor-like bright light shoot across the sky.

Missing hunter found

Search and rescue operation on Mt Taranaki.

A search team airlifted the 62-year-old man unharmed from the Kaweka Ranges.


BMW somersaults into a ditch

Antony Gough crashed his car into a ditch on Tuesday afternoon.

"The car nose dived....it felt like we were in a washing machine," developer Antony Gough says.

Deaths 'devastating'

Sharwan Chand and Conor Smith.

Pair were "experienced, competent" climbers, making their deaths more shocking, friends say.

Ex-rest-home now student digs

The land holding of a Kirkwood Ave, Christchurch former retirement care turned student hostel which has sold to an ...

A sure income stream from Canterbury University proved attractive to bidders.

Warrant issued for absent fraudster

Ann-Marie Kathrine Smith admitted two charges of obtaining money by deception, totalling $3495, in the Christchurch ...

Fraudster Ann-Marie Kathrine Smith was in Christchurch Hospital when she was due at court to repay her victims.


How to earn a $10m paycheck

Mark Wilson grew up in Rotorua, studied at Waikato University and runs a billion dollar finance company.

How a Kiwi kid climbed to the top of the corporate ladder.

Crash scene a 'mess'

The crash scene at the intersection of Cross and Cameron roads.

One person is dead and two are injured after a serious car crash near Morrinsville.

Lotto winner's delayed satisfaction

A strike winner waited two months before checking winning ticket (file photo).

Checking her ticket always slipped her mind. When she finally did, she burst into tears.

Toy maker out of play

Pioneer Wooden Toys owner Bryan Miller had more than $20,000 worth of toys stolen from his Waiuku workshop.

Franklin toy maker's business on hold after thieves steal $20,000 worth of tools.


Former farming flatmates face off

James Lawn (right) came out on top of the Young Farmer regional competition.

Former flatmates to battle it out in the national Young Farmer of the Year competition.

Anzac Day in Waitara

The Anzac Day Parade in Waitara before the civic service.

The weather was perfect for the Anzac Day services held around the mountain on Tuesday.

Teen to take on snooker's best

New Plymouth's Mario Hildred, 16, in preparing to take on the world's best in China later this year.

"Obviously I feel a lot of pressure when I get a high break to keep going to get more."

Missing Taranaki man

Jared Shaun McLean has not been heard from since Saturday.

"We all are actually worried, it's just unlike him to do this."


Western Front tunnelling visit

In the lead-up to the Western Front Anzac Day commemorations, Corporal Tainui Woodmass visits a sculpture at Arras, ...

Shannon man travels to other side of the world to remember the fallen.

Woman badly hurt

Police are at the scene of a crash in Dannevirke, where a motorcycle hit an elderly woman.

An elderly woman is in a critical condition after being hit by a motorcycle in Dannevirke.

Feeling the burn

Rob Kent feels the burn at the 2016 Palmerston North heat of the NZ Chilli Eating Champs. He is returning to defend his ...

Hot food fanatics prepare their guts for the spiciest competition in the land.

The military child

Military families should take the chance Anzac Day presents to give themselves a pat on the back.

COLD COFFEE: As part of a military family, I see first-hand the effects our lifestyle has on family.


Neglected, relocated and restored

Vanessa Hatton at her historic home 'Rostrevor' in Ngatomoti which she is putting on ...

One of Nelson's oldest homes has been lovingly restored and is now on the market.

Crews under pressure

The volume of trucks and heavy goods vehicles passing through Murchison has surged over the past six months.

Murchison volunteers respond to year's worth of crash call-outs in just four months.

Mystery behind bright sky light video

Stephen Moore's dashcam captured a bright light shoot across the Wellington sky.

People in Nelson report seeing a meteor-like bright light shoot across the sky.

Joint landfill gets go-ahead

A empty rubbish truck leaves the York Valley Landfill.

A plan for Nelson and Tasman councils to jointly operate the region's landfills has been given the green light.


I just want to go home

Amberley Rest Home manager Tracey Dimmock-Rump and 83-year-old Celia Wigmore, who has been without a place to call home ...

Injured and shipped out after the earthquake, finding a place to call home has been hard for this 83-year-old.

Race numbers swell

Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon director Chris Shaw among the vines, in Marlborough.

The quake and closure of SH1 couldn't trip up Marlborough's biggest running race, which has seen a surge in numbers.

First building uncovered?

Archaeologist Reg Nichol with a doll's leg and blue, enamel cup he found during excavations for Blenheim's new riverside ...

An archaeologist has found the burned remains of what could be Blenheim's first building, a gin palace and general store.

Quake doesn't stop me

Bill Lonsdale, left, and Lesa B'do have been cut off from one another by the November 14 earthquake.

Cut off from Kaikoura, Bill Lonsdale takes a plane, a car and a boat to see his love.

South Canterbury

The climb of his life

Joe Sharp is climbing Mt Kilimanjaro to raise money for mental health.

Joe Sharp is preparing to climb Mt Kilimanjaro to raise funds for mental health.

Honouring sacrifice

War veterans march on Memorial Ave towards the cenotaph at the Anzac Dawn Service in Timaru.

A crowd of a few hundred stood at the cenotaph in Timaru to commemorate Anzac Day.

Raising awareness 

Volunteer firefighter and former NZ Army infantryman  Maaka Mckinney is escorted into Timaru from Waimate by Timaru ...

Maaka McKinney is raising awareness for depression among first responders.

New book on war hero

Tom O'Connor has published a book on Waimate war hero Eric Batchelor.

The life of one of New Zealand's most decorated soldiers has been detailed in new book.


Climbers' deaths 'devastating'

Sharwan Chand and Conor Smith.

Conor Smith and Sarwan Chand were "experienced, competent" climbers, making their deaths in Fiordland even more shocking, friends say.

One dead in shooting

The Otepuni Ave address where a shooting took place in Invercargill on Tuesday night.

Two people shot on Tuesday night in Invercargill, as neighbours report seeing a man "up to no good".

50-year-old receipt returned

Sue Samson with the 50-year-old receipt left in the Winton Night 'n Day store on April 6.

They'd kept their honeymoon receipt for five decades. So when a shopkeeper found it, she knew she had to return it.

Nasa balloon seen from Chch

Ashley Marles managed to photography the balloon with his own observatory.

That "bright stationary object" is headed for outer space - with an Anzac poppy in tow.

Ad Feedback