Notorious career criminal Arthur Taylor has given his first TV interview, which Corrections spent $86,000 trying to stop.

The jailhouse lawyer has 152 convictions for offences including bank robbery, burglary, fraud and drugs. He has been behind bars on and off for 38 years.

In recent years, the Auckland Prison inmate has taken the Government to court over moves to ban smoking in prisons and voting rights for prisoners.

Corrections spent $86,000 in legal fees trying to stop journalist Lisa Owen's interview with Taylor for TV3's The Nation - which was broadcast this morning - from taking place.


During the interview, Taylor - who has nine convictions for prison escapes - claimed smoking still goes on in jails, contrary to the law. He said there was a black market for tobacco in prison and that prison guards were supplying it to inmates.

He also claimed despite efforts to stop cell phones getting into prisons and to block phone coverage, prisoners are still accessing and using them.

Taylor also said gangs have control of some wings of New Zealand prisons, not Corrections, and when criminals with no gang links enter prison they are forced to join one for their own safety.

And towards the end of the interview, he revealed he has a sneaking admiration for Corrections Minister Judith Collins.

"She has got a bit of go in her," he said.

Taylor said if he was released from prison he would go straight.

"We have all done good, all done bad," Taylor said, "And I have done a helluva lot more good than bad.

"It is not too late for me ... I can break away ... I like helping people."