Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis signs off plan to tackle rising prison guard assaults

Newshub can reveal Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has just signed off an action plan to tackle the rising number of assaults by inmates on prison guards.

Newshub has obtained figures that show how much the attacks have increased and how inmates are doing it - and National is now calling for prison guards to be armed with tasers.  

"We've seen situations where we've got packs of them attacking say one individual or a member of staff," Corrections' associate vice president Paul Dennehy told Newshub. 

And the number of attacks on guards is skyrocketing. Since 2013 the number of assaults has more than doubled. In 2020 there were 895 incidents reported to Corrections.

Since the start of the year there have already been 279 assaults on prison officers - nine of those were serious and almost 65 percent of the prisoners involved had gang affiliations. 

"All too often we hear 'I was told to do it', it's an instruction that's come from the gangs," said Dennehy.

Newshub can reveal some of the ways inmates are attacking guards. 

Reports to the Corrections Minister detail an attack in March where an officer was stabbed in the shoulder with a shank. And in April, a prisoner threw boiling water in a guard's face when they were served lunch.

"It's a daily occurrence," said Dennehy. "Our working environment is becoming increasingly more dangerous."

An officer who was hospitalised after being assaulted told Newshub they were short-staffed on the day they were attacked. 

The officer wanted to be anonymous to protect their job but said new strategies to manage prisoners meant it was "inconsistent and messy for officers to do their jobs" and "prisoners run the prison because they know we can't touch them".

"The immediacy of the violence is ridiculous," says Dennehy.

It's currently up to each prison to refer assaults to police and the union wants to make this mandatory.

National agrees and also wants to trial arming officers with tasers. 

"We need to see a trial of tasers for prison officers so they've got more tactical options to address this growing violence that they're facing on a day-to-day basis in our prisons," says National MP Simeon Brown. 

Corrections doesn't agree and neither does the Corrections Minister.

"Any weapons could also be used against them and we just don't want that sort of situation to occur," Davis told Newshub. 

He's just signed off on an action plan to address prison assaults, committing to better training, officer protection, and more consistent police prosecutions.

"No assault on a prison officer is acceptable and I expect those who offend against Corrections officers to be held to account."

But the reality is he's only just signed off on this action plan while assault numbers have been shooting up for years.

In fact, he only started asking for advice about the assaults at the start of this year - that's three years after he became Corrections Minister.