View of the Waikeria Prison where the inmates are on the roof mattress that had been burning since last night. Photo / Provided
Emergency services remain at the Waikeria Prison this morning after arriving yesterday to negotiate with inmates out of control on the burning mattress on the roof.
The Specialist Advanced Control and Control Team, made up of staff from various prisons, has been in the prison where inmates rioted since Tuesday afternoon.
It is understood that the situation is ongoing this morning, but Correction has not provided an update. Photos emailed to NZME late at night showed huge smoke clouds visible from neighboring farmland.
Police, firefighters and St. John were at the scene yesterday as Correction officers continued to try to negotiate with the inmates and ensure the safety of everyone in the prison.
A spokesman said 19 detainees had been seen on the roof of the building. This includes those who were involved in lighting the fire on the previous page today, along with several other people who were able to get out of their cells with assistance.
“Prisoners can access some parts of the building by penetrating the roof space, but their movement inside the building is restricted by internal gates, barriers and secure doors.
“There was a large amount of smoke around the building coming from the mattresses burned by the prisoners.”
Although there is no threat to public safety, Corrections staff have transferred 49 inmates from one unit to another in the prison while the incident continues.
“There are about 230 prisoners in total in the ‘top prison’ facility and we will not hesitate to evacuate further detainees if necessary to keep them safe.”
FENZ was initially summoned to Waikeria after inmates lit several fires in the prison’s practice yard on Tuesday afternoon.
About 20 prisoners were using the courtyard at the time.
The situation was thought to be under control before the nine detainees refused to comply with the instructions, Newshub reported.
The perpetrators allegedly removed the toilet door from their hinges and used it as a weapon against staff.
Correctional Association President Alan Whitley said the union is offering support.
“We are always concerned about people when situations like this occur, but we have a special team that has special training, they are professional people and they will do a professional job to control the situation,” Whitley told RNZ.
St John’s staff treated a number of staff and inmates for smoke inhalation. Earlier in the evening, it was thought that at least one inmate was bleeding after an argument with guards.
One detained inmate said riots in the prison were imminent, with inmates protesting for human rights. They claim there are problems in the prison, including toilet paper that is taking days, Newshub reports.
Last year, two Waikeria Prison Correction officers were punched in the face within days, while clashes between prisoners have also been reported.
An inmate punched an officer in the face and another officer was also injured when he stepped in to help.
The fight occurred after an officer was threatened and punched a few days earlier.
There have also been previous reports of inmates fighting amongst themselves.
The Waikeria Prison is one of New Zealand’s largest prisons, located on a 1,200ha site south of Te Awamutu in the Waikato region.
The ‘top prison’ where convicts currently reside were built in 1911 and are the oldest part of the prison. It was replaced by a new facility under construction at the prison and which is slated to open in 2022.