Jail drama: Police still at Waikeria Prison after more than five hours of negotiating

Police are tonight still at Waikeria Prison more than five hours after arriving to negotiate with prisoners who were refusing to follow staff instructions.

Prisoners lit several fires in the prison’s exercise yard on Tuesday afternoon, with Fire and Emergency called to put them out.

About 20 prisoners were using the yard when the fire started, a Corrections spokesperson says.

The situation was thought to be under control before nine prisoners refused to comply with instructions, Newshub reported.

Offenders allegedly took toilet doors off their hinges and used them as weapons against staff.

RNZ reported that there were still prisoners on the roof and in the yard that had not been contained as of 7.30pm on Tuesday.

Corrections Association president Alan Whitley said the union was offering support, RNZ said.

“We’re always concerned about people when a situation like this is going on, but we’ve got specialised teams that have got specialised training, they’re professional people and they’ll do a professional job to get the situation under control,” Whitley said.

St John staff treated a number of staff and prisoners due to smoke inhalation. It is thought at least one prisoner is bleeding after an altercation with guards.

A prisoner on remand said a riot at the prison had been imminent, with prisoners protesting for basic human rights. They claimed there were issues at the prison, including toilet paper taking days to be provided, Newshub reported.

A Corrections spokesperson earlier today said the incident was contained and emphasised there was no threat to the safety of the public.

“We have comprehensive procedures for managing events of prisoner disorder,” they said.

“Our Advanced Control and Restraint teams with specialist capability are on standby to assist if necessary. Our top priority is to resolve the situation safely.”

Last year, two Waikeria Prison Correction officers were punched in the face within nearly as many days, while fighting between prisoners has also been reported.

A prisoner punched an officer in the face and another officer was also injured when he stepped in to help.

The altercation comes after an officer was threatened and punched a few days earlier.

There had also been two reports beforehand of prisoners fighting among themselves.

Waikeria Prison is one of New Zealand’s biggest prisons, located on a 1200ha site south of Te Awamutu in the Waikato region.

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