Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Guards fall asleep during escape

Incident report by Corrections on inmate’s hospital visit flight sees minister face questions about staff fatigue.
The inmate from Auckland Region Women's Corrections Facility - whose identity and convictions were not known - was being treated at Middlemore Hospital on December 4. Photo / iStock
The inmate from Auckland Region Women's Corrections Facility - whose identity and convictions were not known - was being treated at Middlemore Hospital on December 4. Photo / iStock

A prisoner escaped custody during a hospital visit because her guards fell asleep, it was revealed yesterday.

The two Corrections officers who let the woman prisoner get away have now been put on a final warning, the Corrections Department said.

The incident was revealed in Parliament yesterday, after New Zealand First MP Mahesh Bindra asked the Government what it was doing about Corrections staff who were falling asleep as a result of fatigue.

The inmate from Auckland Region Women's Corrections Facility - whose identity and convictions were not known - was being treated at Middlemore Hospital on December 4.

An incident report tabled by Mr Bindra, a former prison officer, showed that the inmate had been handcuffed to one of the guards. But after she suffered a seizure around 1am, the prisoner's cuffs were removed and "placed on her bed". Three hours later, the guards realised she was missing.

Middlemore's security staff reported that the prisoner had been seen on CCTV leaving the hospital's main gate. Police were called, but she was found shortly after by security staff. She had been on the run for around 30 minutes.

Corrections Minister Judith Collins said the escape occurred before she was sworn in as minister.

She would not comment because it was now "an employment matter".

Asked what she was doing about Corrections staff suffering from fatigue, Ms Collins said: "I think the threat of losing one's job would ... work it out really."

Ms Collins was also asked yesterday whether "fight clubs" were occurring in prisons as far back as 2009, when she was last in charge of Corrections.

Serco revealed on Monday that two investigations into organised fighting had already taken place, at the old Mt Eden Prison in 2009 and at the newer Mt Eden Corrections Facility in 2014.

Labour's Kelvin Davis asked why MPs were not told about the past investigations as part of Corrections' annual review.

Ms Collins said the 2009 investigation found no evidence of organised violence, and was therefore not elevated to the minister.

She also accused Mr Davis of cosying up to hardened prisoners including career criminal Arthur Taylor, who he visited in Paremoremo last year.

- NZ Herald

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