Prison staff will be taught self-defence to combat violent
inmates in the wake of a string of attacks on guards.
Corrections Minister Anne Tolley today announced 4000
frontline staff would receive tactical exit training,
including escape moves and holds, to help them deal with
potentially violent situations.
It comes after a prison officer was assaulted at Hawkes Bay
Regional Prison earlier this month - the third guard to come
under attack in four months.
The 30-year-old guard was punched from behind by prisoners in
the Maori Focus Unit.
Mrs Tolley said staff often dealt with dangerous and
"I have been concerned about a recent spate of staff
assaults, and we want to ensure that everything is being done
to limit such incidents. We are always looking for ways to
improve safety for our staff."
A Corrections spokeswoman said the training would involve
learning escape moves and holds that would allow staff to
avoid harm or break free from prisoners in situations where
staff were being physically restrained or had no safe exit.
Staff would also be taught "situational awareness" to help
them recognise what they could do to get out of difficult
"This includes taking note of where they are in relation to
doors and the other person/s in the area, working out if they
will be able to reach an alarm if necessary and recognising
any potential barriers, such as furniture, that could prevent
them from exiting the area."
The training comes after staff at all prisons were given
access to pepper spray after a trial at 10 prisons last year.
Other recent safety measures include stab-resistant vests,
batons and spit hoods for those working in high-risk
Mrs Tolley also announced an international expert advisory
panel, headed by former police commissioner Howard Broad, to
oversee a new prison staff safety action plan.
The panel will recommend additions and possible improvements
to the action plan, while consulting with staff and unions.
Rethinking Crime and Punishment director Kim Workman said it
could lead to a more balanced prison management regime.
He said a focus on risk management and physical security had
led to reductions in prison escapes and positive drug tests,
but at the same time, there had been an increase in prisoners
assaulting other inmates or staff.
"Where prison management introduces excessive strip
searching, lock downs, and restrictions on prisoner movement
and freedom, it will inevitably result in outbreaks of
violence between prisoners, and on staff.
"If there has not been sufficient investment in staff
training and development, it increases the likelihood that
prisoners and prison staff will be either seriously injured