Exclusive: Corrections staff asked to be vigilant of 'escalated tension' after Brian Tamaki prison revolt comments

Department of Corrections staff were advised to be vigilant about escalated tension after controversial comments by Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki threatened revolts in prisons.

In April, a war of words broke out between Tamaki and Government Ministers, including Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis and Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

Tamaki said he wanted Government funding to introduce his Man Up programme into prisons, but Davis stated Tamaki had failed to follow proper application procedures.

Davis was also unsure of the authenticity of claims by Tamaki about the success of the programme, which claims to help men with a record of violent offending and addiction by rehabilitating them to re-enter society after prison.

Among several tweets Tamaki posted about the funding not going ahead, he wrote that "we will plan thru Private Visits to inmates in every Prison to bring ManUp in nd cause inmate revolts in evey prison (sic)".

The self-professed bishop has since said the tweet wasn't serious, but Newshub has learnt that following the comments, Department of Corrections staff were advised to remain vigilant about threats.

"Key regional staff were advised to speak with prisons and remain vigilant for any signs of escalated tension," a Corrections spokesperson confirmed to Newshub.

The Corrections spokesperson said key national and regional staff meet daily, both in person and by video conference, to discuss "emerging issues".

It was during one of these meetings that "the comments made were raised verbally".

Operational staff involved include the department's deputy national commissioner, the chief custodial officer and the national operations manager.

The regional staff advised include senior advisers to each of the department's four regional commissioners.

Exclusive: Corrections staff asked to be vigilant of 'escalated tension' after Brian Tamaki prison revolt comments
Photo credit: Newshub / File.

The department wouldn't go further into detail "relating to a threat, or our response," but said it took "all threats to the safety and security of our sites seriously".

It also has a plan to deal with a range of risks, including:

  • A comprehensive approval process for prison visitors
  • Daily assessment and reporting of tension in every prison unit
  • The ability to monitor prisoners' phone calls, mail and incoming property

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has condemned the comments and supported Davis in noting that Man Up had not properly sought funding.  

"They repeatedly criticise the Government for not putting them into prisons, but then do nothing to formally make an attempt to put anything to Corrections and enter into prisons," said Ardern.

"I do think it's irresponsible to incite violence in the prison system because you're not getting your way."

Tamaki has been outspoken against the Government, in April taking aim over the decision to push through gun reforms in the wake of the March 15 terror attack in Christchurch.

He also criticised Ardern for her decision to allow the broadcast of the Islamic call to prayer during a ceremony after the attack, claiming New Zealand's "national identity is at stake".

The Man Up programme claims to have more than 300 groups operating in every main city and town in New Zealand, as well as groups running internationally in Australia and Cambodia.

Tamaki says the programme has a success rate for non-reoffending of 72 percent.

Tamaki has a massive number of supporters. In December last year, around 2000 of his followers marched on Parliament. He told the crowd the Government was ignoring him "after all my efforts".

He also headed to Waitangi in February with a large contingent of followers.

Tamaki has previously marched on Parliament.
Tamaki has previously marched on Parliament. Photo credit: Newshub.

Earlier this month, Tamaki said that Man Up didn't need Government funding, and it would continue being funded by Man Up organisations as it had been for a while.

"It's not about the money, we don't need to be funded. If that is the case, it doesn't need to be funded because we have been doing it for five years on our funding, paying for it ourselves."

Tamaki and Destiny Church have been approached for comment.