Belinda Feek is a NZ Herald reporter

Group opposed to transgender lockdown arrested in Hamilton

Hamilton police stand guard outside the Hamilton regional office of Department of Corrections this morning. Photo / Belinda Feek
Hamilton police stand guard outside the Hamilton regional office of Department of Corrections this morning. Photo / Belinda Feek

Protesters who stormed the Hamilton Department of Corrections office over the treatment of a transgender prisoner have been arrested.

Prison advocacy group No Pride in Prison has taken exception to a transgender being held in 23-hour lockdown, which it claims is "akin to torture".

However, the group this afternoon claimed that all four of its protesters had been arrested by police, while Corrections says the female prisoner involved is known to make false accusations against staff and other prisoners.

The protestors chained themselves up in the Department of Corrections office in Hamilton.

A short live feed from its Facebook page shows police putting handcuffs on the four involved.

No Pride in Prisons spokeswoman Emilie Rakete said the transgender prisoner had been moved into isolation because of fears for her safety as she had been assaulted in the past.

However, the woman has now threatened self harm if she is not taken out of the seclusion unit where she is in a cell for 23 hours a day.

Protestors inside the Hamilton Department of Corrections office this morning. Photo / Supplied
Protestors inside the Hamilton Department of Corrections office this morning. Photo / Supplied

"She said that if she is not moved out of isolation soon, she will end up leaving in a body bag."

Rakete said the woman wasn't safe in the general population and although she had been assaulted several times in the elected segregation unit - a "safe" area for prisoners who feel threatened - she didn't want to be in isolation.

Rakete claims Corrections has given up on trying to protect her.

However, Central Regional Commissioner Terry Buffery denied the prisoner was subject to confinement.

"This is a peaceful protest. It is not correct that this transgender prisoner is subject to solitary confinement. She is particularly vulnerable and is being closely managed for her own care and protection, with appropriate professional health care and support."

Buffer said the prisoner is on a "regime of protective directed segregation for her own safety".

"She is currently unable to mix with other prisoners as she has a history of making false allegations against other prisoners and staff. She is receiving all her minimum entitlements and on most days she has more than this."

The woman was allowed to make telephone calls to approved numbers and is currently able to spend an hour on the phone each day, which is significantly more than most prisoners.

"She is entitled to receive visitors regularly, and interacts with staff."

Buffery said Corrections was undertaking a comprehensive programme of work to help support transgender prisoners which would cover accessibility to support services, appropriate healthcare, appropriate rehabilitation and safety plans for vulnerable prisoners.

"Corrections has a duty of care to all prisoners and works to ensure every prisoner is placed in a safe environment. Corrections assesses each prisoner individually to ensure the most appropriate placements."

Peaceful protests were also held outside the Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin Corrections offices.

- NZ Herald

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