7 Jan 2013

Prison staff learn to evade 'killer' inmates

6:13 pm on 7 January 2013

The first of 3500 Corrections staff are about to begin training on how to get themselves out of a potentially fatal attack by an inmate.

The Corrections Officers Union says inmates are increasingly punching, kicking, biting and spitting at guards, and 20 staff were seriously assaulted by prisoners in the last financial year.

Corrections' chief executive Ray Smith last year assembled an advisory group of 10 of the most seriously injured guards who had survived attacks and out of that has come the launch in early January of Tactical Exit Training.

The department says the training will help staff defuse potentially lethal situations.

It includes learning communications techniques, self-defence and vigilance about exits near the site of a confrontation.

Last year, the Corrections Department said it considering making changes to the way prisoners are handled, coroner Gordon Matenga reported on the death of a guard who was punched by an inmate.

Jason Palmer was killed at south Auckland's Springhill prison in 2010.

Mr Matenga disagreed with the departments of Labour and Corrections - which both found no breach of policy or procedure - and recommended getting guards to ask prisoners who pose a threat to put their hands behind their back and lean in the opposite direction when their cells are being opened.

Mr Palmer was hit by an inmate while unlocking a cell door.

Mr Matenga also said there also needs to be better reporting of threats to staff.

The inmate who hit Mr Palmer had made a threat about him to another guard, but that wasn't reported.