The Corrections Minister has announced how a "robust and thorough" review over footage of inmates engaging in banned behaviour in New Zealand prisons.
Over the last few days, video footage has emerged which apparently shows prisoners at Mt Eden Corrections Facility fighting and engaging in other activities that are banned inside New Zealand prison facilities.
An internal investigation into these events is being carried out by Serco, which runs the remand facility. Police have also been advised and may conduct their own investigation.
Corrections Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga has now asked Corrections to carry out a robust and thorough review of the incidents
"This behaviour of prisoners is unacceptable. Today I am announcing the terms of reference for that review," he said.
"I have also asked the chief executive of Corrections to widen the scope of this review to address other allegations related to violence and the use of cell phones in other prisons that have come to light recently."
The Chief Inspector of Corrections will now run a two-stage review. The first phase of the review will be completed by the end of August and phase two by the end of September.
Phase one will look at the circumstances surrounding the incidents posted to social media and whether there are organised prisoner fights at Mt Eden.
The investigation will pay particular attention to the last three months to determine whether this type of activity is widespread across the site or limited to specific units, whether management or staff knew of it, what they did about it and what measures have been taken to restrict contraband.
"I also expect recommendations to come out of it to strengthen controls, standards and operating procedures if warranted," Mr Lotu-Iiga said.
The second phase will review the adequacy of controls designed to address prisoner violence and access to cell phones in other New Zealand prisons.
"To ensure an independent view of this process The Office of the Ombudsman has been invited to monitor and review the investigation. Full cooperation will be afforded to the Ombudsman's investigator, who may also independently report on any matter concerning the incidents or its subsequent investigation," Mr Lotu-Iiga says.
"I have already put Serco on notice over the incidents at MECF. I will be meeting with Serco senior management this week and I am expecting a positive and strong response from the company in resolving these issues."
Inmate posts music videos from prison
New footage from inside a New Zealand prison has emerged online — this time seemingly of a murderer performing in music videos filmed in a jail cell.
The revelation comes in the same week footage emerged showing jailed gang members fighting, and others apparently taking drugs, drinking homemade alcohol and using a prison guard's walkie-talkie.
It is understood those videos were taken in Mt Eden Correctional Facility, which is privately run by Serco. They have sparked calls for investigations.
It is understood the man who features in the music videos is serving a life sentence with a minimum non parole period of 10 years for murder after a frenzied attack on a rival gang member.
The Herald on Sunday can reveal the man has been posting music videos to YouTube for the past two years, despite inmates being banned from using cellphones.
Several of his songs have made their way to the popular music streaming site SoundCloud, and the man has an active Facebook page.
He describes the music from his band as "songs from behind prison walls" where the videos are captured in a prison cell and feature other inmates. His most popular songs have been viewed 40,000 times.
Paul Tomlinson, Lower North regional commissioner for Corrections, said it was investigating the latest incident.
"The department will be investigating the claim that a prisoner has been directly operating a Facebook account," he said.
"If it is found that there has been any illegal use of a cellphone from prison or any other contraband, internal and police charges may follow."
Prisoners do not have free access to the internet and it may be possible for contraband, such as a Sim card, to be passed out of prison.
Labour Corrections spokesman Kelvin Davis said the latest revelation was "inappropriate".
"Corrections needs to take a look at how the phones are being smuggled in.
"It is a concern across all prisons in New Zealand and it's clear access to cellphones isn't just restricted to private prisons. Corrections needs to take a hard look at how [inmates] are able to get their hands on technology and how they use it."
Sensible Sentencing Trust founder Garth McVicar said it was alarming that prisoners had such easy access to mobile phones.
"From the victim's perspective, it's absolutely distressing to think that would happen. From a public perspective it's even more alarming that our prison system has become so offender friendly that this type of stuff is able to go on."