A police investigation has begun into claims that a prisoner was raped by his cellmate while locked in overnight at a privately run men's prison in South Auckland.
The Department of Corrections has also launched its own inquiry into the attack at Auckland South Corrections Facility.
As well, the assault was receiving political attention - a spokeswoman for Corrections Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga said last night he had been told of it and had sought more information.
A family member of the inmate told the Weekend Herald he rang on Wednesday saying: "I'm scared. They're putting me in mainstream and they're not giving me a reason."
Until then, the inmate had served almost half his sentence in segregation.
She said he rang yesterday morning to say he had been beaten up by seven men, then locked up overnight with his cellmate under the prison's double-bunking scheme.
"He got raped all night by his cellmate," she said.
The phone call for help was brief - the inmate's telephone calling card ran out and his phone time ended.
Upset, family members spent hours trying to get information out of the prison. It came about 5pm yesterday with a visit arranged between family and prisoner for tomorrow. The inmate had been moved back to segregation with a cell on his own.
Another family member told the Weekend Herald the inmate had a gentle disposition and needed to be kept in segregation.
The inmate told her there were a few inmates who did not want him in mainstream. She asked if it was because he was gay, and he said it was.
She said she was worried about the inmate's mental health and the possibility of self-harm.
Corrections' northern regional commissioner Jeanette Burns confirmed a complaint was made. Police were told immediately and Corrections would carry out its own inquiry.
"Staff acted immediately to support the prisoner when he disclosed what had happened." She said he was quickly seen by medical staff and moved to the health unit so his "well-being" could be monitored.
She said the contract with SecureFuture - which includes Serco - was clear that there was "zero tolerance for anti-social behaviour, including sexual assaults".
• The inmate said to have suffered the attacks has since been revealed to be transgender and receiving hormone replacement therapy. The pronoun "he" reflects the understanding at the time the story was published.