Police have continued their investigation into an assault on an inmate by another prisoner in the recreation yard of the Northland Corrections facility.
The attack on July 20 joined the tally of 26 prisoner-led assaults on inmates and corrections staff recorded at the Northland Region Corrections Facility/Ngawha Prison in the past five months.
Department of Corrections data for that time showed Northland had one of the lowest rates of assault when compared with the 17 other Corrections facilities nationwide.
The latest assault saw a prisoner launch an "unprovoked" attack on an inmate in the unit's recreation area while staff were busy with another prisoner outside of the yard.
Northland Region Corrections Facility prison director Michael Rongo said the area is continuously monitored by CCTV.
When staff returned a short time later they discovered the man injured and immediately provided first aid. Health Services assessed the man before he was taken to hospital via ambulance.
"He returned to the prison the following day and was placed in a different unit," Rongo said.
Legislative obligations under the Health Information Privacy Code prevented the Department of Corrections from providing any information about the man's condition.
The man responsible for the afternoon attack admitted the assault to staff and was placed on Directed Segregation within the Management Unit.
"He will be charged with misconduct and the incident is now part of an active police investigation."
Rongo said the unit had been fully staffed that day except for a brief time in the afternoon when they had one less corrections officer than was usual.
"Staff safety plans were in place to manage the absence and no escalated tension in the unit had been identified."
Six assaults on staff by prisoners were recorded at the Northland Region Corrections Facility/Ngawha Prison in the past five months – with the only serious assault occurring in May.
Prisoners assaulted other inmates 20 times, again with only one serious assault – this time in March.
An assault is deemed serious when it causes an injury that requires medical treatment followed by overnight hospitalisation (beyond initial assessment or medical observation); or an injury that involves ongoing medical treatment; or any sexual assault where police charges are laid.
In the past five months, Auckland Prison recorded the highest number of assaults on staff with 62; and Christchurch Men's Prison had the most inmate on inmate assaults with 59.
However both facilities have some of the largest populations of remanded and sentenced prisoners in the country.
A head count in June this year showed Auckland had 554 people and Christchurch Men's Prison had 759.
The largest prison population was 1077 in Mt Eden Corrections Facility, compared with 88 in Christchurch Women's Prison. The Northland Region Corrections Facility had 494 prisoners - 225 were remanded prisoners and 269 sentenced.
Data showed the highest rate of assaults, given the population size, occurred in Christchurch Women's Prison (24 assaults on staff and 11 on prisoners). This was followed by Arohata Prison in Wellington, which had 24 assaults on staff and nine on prisoners among their population of 110 prisoners.
Ngawha Prison recorded the fourth lowest level of assaults.
Department of Corrections statistics revealed the number of assaults in facilities across the country had remained mostly constant over the past five years.
Examples of assaults that have occurred in the northern region this year included a hot cup of melted sugar being thrown over an inmate, broken jaws and wrists, and two prisoners discovered unconscious bleeding from their heads.
Rongo said they had a zero tolerance for violence policy.
"Any prisoner using such behaviour will be held to account for their actions, including facing criminal charges."
Prisoners could also face internal misconduct charges or a change in their security classification.
Corrections national commissioner Rachel Leota said in an official information request that an increased proportion of the prison population affiliated to gangs contributed to prison violence.
"Gang members are over-represented in acts of disorder and violence in prisons. Gang members also are known to incite other people in prison to carry out violence acts on behalf of gangs..."
Other contributing factors included a growth in the number of prisoners on remand, and a rise in the number of prisoners who "have extensive methamphetamine use/abuse habits".
"Corrections manages some of New Zealand's most complex and challenging people...staff anticipate and attempt to resolve problems through active management of people in prison, and are trained in de-escalation techniques, and interpersonal and tactical communication skills," Leota said.
"The goal is always to manage a potentially volatile situation in a manner that minimises the likelihood of violent behaviour."