5 Dec 2014

Smith's prison regime 'not punishment'

9:57 am on 5 December 2014

A convicted murderer turned development specialist is sceptical about Phillip Smith's motives for going on hunger strike in an Auckland prison.

Phillip John Smith being taken into custody at the Maravilhosa Hostel in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Phillip John Smith being taken into custody at the Maravilhosa Hostel in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: TV Bandeirantes

Smith is refusing food at Auckland Prison at Paremoremo claiming his dignity - including his hairpiece - has been taken away.

Last month he absconded while on temporary leave from prison where he was serving a life sentence, imposed in 1996, for stabbing to death the father of a boy he had been convicted of sexually assaulting.

Tony Ellis

Lawyer Tony Ellis visited Smith yesterday. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Smith flew out of New Zealand on 6 November while on a three-day release from Spring Hill prison in Waikato. He fled to Chile, then on to Brazil, and was recaptured in Rio de Janeiro on 13 November.

Yesterday he told his lawyer Tony Ellis he was protesting because his glasses, hairpiece and clothes hade been taken away and he is not allowed books, a television or a toilet in his cell.

Development specialist Paul Wood, who spent 11 years in prison for the murder of his drug dealer at age 18, said life will not be pleasant for Smith but his treatment is standard operating procedure.

"It sucks being in a room with nothing to stimulate you, no pen, no books ... it's very boring, but it's standard operating procedure."

Dr Wood told Morning Report staff at Auckland Prison would be taking these measures out of concern for Smith's state of mind following his escape to Brazil and subsequent return to New Zealand.

"This is a difficult situation for him but I don't think punishment is their primary motive here, I think it's just ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Phillip Smith.

"That's not pleasant for him at this point but that's what their primary motive will be."

The Corrections Department declined to comment on an individual case.

Auckland Prison at Paremoremo.

Auckland Prison at Paremoremo. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

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