New Zealand: waikeria prison's role as a flashpoint for public debate about jails

The fires that set Waikato's waikeria Prison alight over summer may be out, but the impact of the protests there is ongoing.

There are now three investigations under way, as well as a High Court civil rights case by the prisoners against the Attorney General and Corrections, and other claims against the Crown in the Waitangi Tribunal.

Public debate about how prisons are run and their place in society has also heated up.In Tuesday’s podcast, The Detail’s Jessie Chiang looks at the two fiercely opposed narratives in the six-day standoff between prisoners and Corrections and how the incident has become a flashpoint for debate. Chiang also speaks to Armon Tamatea, a former Corrections clinical psychologist. He’s now a senior lecturer at Waikato University’s school of psychology and currently leading a research project called Nga Tūmanakotanga, which looks at prison violence.

Tamatea challenges New Zealand to think about the part we as a society plays to reintegrate prisoners back into the community.“We have high trust in our schools, we have high trust in our hospitals, I would think, do we have the same level of trust in our prison systems? I would suggest probably not“ he says.

As a part of the research, Tamatea was at Waikeria Prison about a month before the uprising and describes what he saw there. He gives his take on how much of an impact the reviews will have on changing prison culture.