If you were down at Hastings Clock Tower during your lunchtime on Tuesday you may have seen two high school students sitting in a cage.

James Barr and Ishan Parmar, Year 11 students from St John's Hastings, locked themselves in a cage for four hours, from 10am to 2pm, to protest against poor living conditions for those in New Zealand prisons.

Both students were part of a young enterprise team at their school that had delved into the subject.

They had found a 2017 Ombudsman's report into Hawke's Bay Regional Prison that said "there were shortfalls in the provision of clean bedding and clothing for prisoners and many mattress covers were stained and mouldy".

Ishan Parmar and James Barr's stunt raised eyebrows for some. Photo / Duncan Brown
Ishan Parmar and James Barr's stunt raised eyebrows for some. Photo / Duncan Brown

The report further stated, "Limited staff interaction with high security prisoners and insufficient provision of constructive activities has resulted in an atmosphere of boredom and frustration."

"After reading Ombudman's report we felt more could be done by the Government," Barr said.

The pair said more funding was needed in the Corrections budget to help improve prisoner conditions.

The boys decided to do the protest without the permission of their school and had left without permission.

"Our principal has already come down to see us and said that he wanted to talk to us when we get back to school, but also said that we were brave to do what we were doing," Barr said.

Principal of St John's Paul Melloy said in a statement to Hawke's Bay Today that the timing of the protest could have been better.

"No-one wants their pupils out of school. Having said that, it was done to gain maximum publicity and Ishan and James succeeded in this. The protest itself was for the right reasons.

"Ishan and James belong to a generation that cares about the homeless, our environment and those rejected by society itself, more than any generation before them.


"With this, it gives us great hope for the future, to have a generation that is so caring and empathetic to those in need.

"Gandhi once said, 'Tthe true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members'. For this Ishan and James go to the top of the class."