Three men have been charged over an alleged attack on a fellow inmate at Hawke’s Bay Prison who is now fighting for his life.
It comes as a union boss says more Corrections staff are currently needed nationwide, including at Hawke’s Bay Prison.
Emergency services were called to the all-male prison last Friday morning following an alleged serious assault that happened during an altercation between prisoners in a high-security wing.
One inmate, a man aged in his 40s, received first aid from prison staff before being rushed to hospital.
He remained in ICU in a serious condition at Hawke’s Bay Hospital as of Thursday morning - six days on from the ordeal.
Police have charged three men aged 25, 28 and 38 with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
Corrections Association of NZ president Floyd du Plessis, himself a Hawke’s Bay resident, visited the prison following the incident to check on staff.
“The incident in question was an isolated event and happened relatively quickly, and there was no injury ... to staff,” he said.
“These things always do bring up a lot of trauma for everyone involved, which does need to be slowly and carefully worked through.”
He said while it was his understanding no weapon was used, he did not know the exact circumstances of what happened or what caused the alleged assault, which remains under investigation.
Du Plessis said more Corrections staff were needed across the country to “spread the staffing out better and have a better presence in all of the units”.
“I know Hawke’s Bay has been doing relatively well in the last few months in terms of recruiting more staff, but there is still some more work to do to get to where we need to be.”
He said when there were staff shortages, prisons could opt to close wings rather than space prisoners out across an entire prison, which can cause tensions to rise.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison director George Massingham said the prison did not have any closed units due to staffing.
“There are 25.98 frontline prison-based vacancies out of 326.33 front-line prison-based roles at Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison.
“All units are operational and there are zero unit closures due to staffing pressures.”
The prison’s definition of ‘front-line’ roles includes Corrections officers, nurses, case managers and instructors.
“Not all of these roles are required to be filled for the safe and secure operation of the prison.”
He said like many organisations, “we have been facing ongoing challenges related to our staffing levels”, but had worked hard to attract more staff and had seen a rise in applications and jobs filled.
The prison is holding its own review into last week’s incident and police are also investigating.
“I would also like to acknowledge how distressing this incident has been for both our staff and the victim’s whānau,” Massingham said.
“Alongside supporting our staff, we have been in contact with the man’s family to ensure they’re getting the support they need during this difficult time.”
Gary Hamilton-Irvine is a Hawke’s Bay-based reporter who covers a range of news topics including business, councils, breaking news and cyclone recovery. He formerly worked at News Corp Australia.