ZB

Revealed: Prisoners charged after Waikeria hand sani booze-up

Author
Aaron Dahmen,
Publish Date
Wed, 25 May 2022, 7:02am
Waikeria Prison. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Waikeria Prison. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Revealed: Prisoners charged after Waikeria hand sani booze-up

Author
Aaron Dahmen,
Publish Date
Wed, 25 May 2022, 7:02am

Inmates at one of the country's largest prisons found an inventive way of marking the New Year period - boozing on hand sanitiser.  

Newstalk ZB can reveal almost a dozen prisoners were charged with misconduct after allegedly getting drunk at Waikeria Prison earlier this year.  

Both National and the Corrections Association are unimpressed - saying it's "shocking" and symptomatic of a "failing system."  

But Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis wasn't told about the incident at the time and has refused to be interviewed.

He maintains it's an "operational matter that was resolved by Corrections."

On Sunday, 2 January, staff observed ten men sharing drinks before the unit was due to undergo lock up for the day.

Acting prison director Rosemary Firth said officers quickly realised all was not well.  

"They identified that the men were under the influence of a substance, suspected to have been hand sanitiser", she said.  

"Staff immediately confiscated the drinks and returned the prisoners to their cells without further issue."  

"After the incident, staff were reminded of the importance to safely store hand sanitiser to ensure it remains secure."  

The booze-up's drawn the ire of the Corrections Association, who says officers can't be blamed.  

"It's not looked at from the perspective of why did this go wrong... it looks at who made a mistake', said president Floyd du-Plessis.  

"When you're under pressure, when you're having to do the work of six people... it's a result of mismanagement."  

In a statement, Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis said prisoners can present "challenging behaviours."

"When this incident arose, it was dealt with promptly and appropriately by Corrections, and the people involved faced consequences," he said.

"I have been advised the unit involved was fully staffed at the time of the incident."

National's corrections spokesperson Simon O'Connor said it's "disingenuous" to cite staffing of the specific unit affected.

'Whether or not the unit on that particular day, at that particular time, was fully staffed doesn't reflect the wider situation within Corrections", he said.  

'They're stretched... they're understaffed... they've been asked to do too much and [they're] struggling to get cover when needed."  

He said Minister Davis should have been given a heads-up on what happened, and front interviews on the issue.  

"Where's Kelvin? He seems conspicuously absent whenever there are proper and challenging questions about his handling of the Corrections portfolio".  

A Corrections spokesperson told ZB there was no extra cost incurred as a result of the incident, and details didn't need to be elevated to the Beehive.  

"Our frontline staff routinely manage a wide range of operational incidents across our 17 prisons nationwide."

"It is therefore not necessary or appropriate for the Minister to be advised of every operational situation that occurs in the day-to-day prison environment."