23 Feb 2021

'Inappropriate' pamphlet found at Spring Hill prison referred to police

6:59 pm on 23 February 2021

A pamphlet from a prison reform lobby group discovered at Spring Hill prison, described as "basically inciting people to disorder", has been referred to police.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis revealed the pamphlet in Parliament today. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Produced by People Against Prisons Aotearoa, it advises prisoners what to do if they're unhappy with their living conditions, from petitioning, to applying pressure through the media, to protesting.

While it advocates "peaceful protest" it then references January's Waikeria riot - saying the inmates involved "were burning the unit down to take a stand for future generations".

The pamphlet includes an isolated quote from Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi - "when injustice becomes law, defiance becomes duty".

Seventeen men are facing charges after the week-long riot that resulted in significant damage. They are each charged with rioting, riotously destroying property, burglary using a weapon, wilfully setting fire to property and endangering life.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis revealed the pamphlet in Parliament, during questions from the Māori Party about the treatment of prisoners in New Zealand jails.

Davis told the House a "publication encouraging prisoners to riot quoting a member of the Māori Party has been distributed ... politicians involving themselves in some Corrections matters would only serve to embolden and encourage more events that endanger the lives of prisoners and staff".

"It was then, and is now, irresponsible behaviour."

Davis told reporters he was not "saying he'd [Waititi] distributed it, but he is quoted in it".

He said a prisoner had passed the pamphlet onto a prison guard and it was "escalated" from there.

"Really inappropriate, and my concern is for the safety of Corrections officers, Corrections staff; if people are being encouraged to create disorder in prisons that's entirely unacceptable".

The pamphlet, entitled "Take No Prisoners", said the inmates involved were protesting against "disgusting" conditions that had not been addressed and sat on an "admin's desk until they became kindling for the uprising".

"It might seem extreme that the Waikeria Uprising protesters gave up on the complaints system and torched the unit instead. But they succeeded where everyone else has failed," it read.

"The government showed us that it could not reform the prison, so the Uprising reformed the prison to the ground".

Emilie Rakete from People Against Prisons Aotearoa said the campaign strategy outlined was made up of "non-violent prisoner political committees and community prison oversight committees".

She said they "repeatedly" emphasised prisoner political committees were organisations for "non-violent collective action like a trade union or a political party".

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