Transcript: New allegations levelled against Serco's Mt Eden Prison
Lisa Owen: And I want now to bring Paddy back into the conversation. Let's start, Paddy, by just recapping what we learnt this week about the goings on in Mt Eden jail, and I think we've got a graphic here that we can show people at home, and it shows that there was an incident in May 2014. A prisoner barricaded doors to a unit. 10 others refused to go to their cells. But we only just heard about this. February 2015, a prisoner suffers fractures to a left ankle and a right leg.
Patrick Gower: Yes, and in May 2015, Nick Evans suffered a ruptured lung in Mt Eden, and he later died. And, of course, this week when the prison was in lockdown, we have a prisoner transported to another prison who arrives there with injuries. And, of course, on Friday, Corrections took over running Mt Eden 'for the immediate future'. Now, we've also seen just there, Lisa, two new allegations – one of rape, two of extortion, with contraband phones being used where there's supposedly a cell phone jammer. But you've also been working on this story for a few days now. What else have you learnt?
Lisa Owen: Yeah, well, I've been talking to a few people, and one of the allegations that's come up is that a prisoner was released early in around 2012, released from Serco, even though he, allegedly, hadn't finished his sentence. The prisoner, apparently, told the prison that he wasn't due to be released. They pushed him out the door, according to what sources and more than one source is telling us, but he was later called and recalled by the prison, according to their account of events, and told to keep quiet about it. The other serious allegation is that a complaint went to Corrections in 2013 alleging that Serco was misclassifying prisoners. Prisoners are classified according to their security levels in incidents that happen in prison. The other allegation was that they were keeping those classifications down despite incidents in jail.
Patrick Gower: And that's what Kelvin Davis was referring to, saying you can't trust those league tables.
Lisa Owen: Yeah. The allegation there was that it was to keep their rehabilitation scores up and keep their position up there on the league table at the prison service.
Patrick Gower: Now, we want to do, obviously, our Sam Lotu-Iiga questions about this, and Ray Smith, who is, of course, the legal custodian of these prisoners, but they turned us down, didn't they?
Lisa Owen: Yeah, they did. We also asked Serco on and, as you say, Ray Smith.
Patrick Gower: No surprise that Serco turned us down.
Lisa Owen: No surprise that Serco turned us down, but the interesting thing is their contract actually requires them to engage with the media – haven't seen much of engagement from them. And these are serious issues, yet the minister and the chief executive of Corrections couldn't spare us 10 minutes to answer those allegations.
Patrick Gower: But they did send us their revealing email that you've got there.
Lisa Owen: They did send us an email. We emailed them with the new allegations that we had to hand, asking for a response, and we received this email from them, and interestingly enough, the subject line says 'holding lines for new allegations over the weekend', and for people who don't understand what that is in PR speak, those are lines that you put together, holding lines – should you get an enquiry, these are the lines that you put out – and these are the ones that they have prepared for the weekend regardless of what the allegations are that we were putting to them, and so nothing new in that statement and no direct response to the allegations that we're raising here on this show this morning.
Patrick Gower: Yeah, and I have to say, in terms of Corrections PR, what a joke, actually. Have the weekend off when the prison is in trouble – what a complete and utter joke your PR team is. And also, in terms of PR, there will be a fair bit going on at the National Party Conference. Of course, it won't overshadow things for the party grass roots, but in terms of the external media looking in, and people looking in from the outside, this will cast a very big shadow over the conference.