Prisoners stage protests over move to OCF

The Otago Corrections Facility at Milburn near Milton.
The Otago Corrections Facility at Milburn near Milton.
High security prisoners have staged two protests against plans to move them from Christchurch to Otago Corrections Facility.

A plan to move about 80 high security prisoners from Christchurch Men’s Prison to the Milburn facility was recently confirmed by the Department of Corrections.

The move was about shifting inmates to facilities better aligned with their security level, and would also allow two ageing units at Christchurch Men’s Prison to be closed.

Corrections had planned to start moving prisoners last week, but said it had put that on hold to allow more time for ‘‘further engagement with our union partners and to ensure any movements are managed safely’’.

The partner of one inmate set to be transferred told the Otago Daily Times her partner was concerned about being taken away from his support systems.

He told her inmates had staged a protest at Christchurch Men’s Prison to signal their displeasure with the move.

Following questions from the ODT yesterday, Christchurch Men’s Prison director Joanne Harrex said there had been two occasions in the past fortnight where prisoners tampered with a yard grill, preventing Corrections officers from entering.

On the first occasion, on July 21, seven prisoners in a yard declined to leave, citing concerns about a potential relocation.

‘‘This was resolved peacefully within a short period of time,’’ she said.

Four days later about 4.30pm, another 10 prisoners declined to leave a yard, and one prisoner again cited concerns about a potential move.

‘‘After a short period of negotiation, the prisoners indicated they were willing to leave the yard peacefully.’’

The last prisoner was removed from the yard about 6.10pm. One prisoner, believed to be the instigator, was placed on misconduct, meaning they would face disciplinary charges.

‘‘Both the protests were peaceful at all times and no prisoners, staff or members of the public were in danger.’’

Ms Harrex said staff spent time working with the prisoners in the following days to understand what their concerns were, and to ensure they understood the need for a transfer.

‘‘We have committed to addressing their concerns and working with them to resolve any issues.’’

Corrections did not answer a question about how long consultation would run.

Under its plan, about 40 low security prisoners from Otago Corrections Facility and Christchurch Men’s Prison would also be moved to Rolleston Prison.

Otago Corrections Facility has a total capacity of 454 prisoners, 291 of which are high security spaces.


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