Two Waikato prison officers were taken to hospital with head injuries after two inmates allegedly assaulted them while trying to escape last night.

One officer remained in hospital for observation and the other had been discharged, Corrections Department chief executive Ray Smith said today.

The inmates escaped from their cells at Waikeria Prison, south of Te Awamutu, about 8.30pm. They assaulted the male officer who then secured himself in the guard room.

The female officer had retreated to call for help, when the prisoners found her and assaulted her, he said.

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She talked to the prisoners while waiting for other staff to arrive.

"Despite their injuries, the officers acted bravely to prevent the situation becoming more dangerous."

Public safety was their priority, he said.

"They put themselves at risk to ensure that there was no risk to the community. I have spoken with both of them and told them that I am immeasurably proud of their actions, and their concern for each other."

The biggest concern for both of them following the assault was the wellbeing of the other, he said.

Staff who responded to the alarm quickly took control of the situation calling police, ambulance, and moving and securing the prisoners. The prisoners did not breach the secure perimeter of the unit, he said.

Corrections and police were investigating the incident.

Corrections was currently focusing on "supporting the well-being of the staff involved and their families", he said.

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The injured officers would not be fully interviewed until they were "ready and well".

- NZPA