Reports into circumstances surrounding organised Fight Club

Introduction (from Phase One report)

Mount Eden Corrections Facility (MECF) is one of two prisons in New Zealand managed by private operators Serco New Zealand Ltd (Serco). Since August 2011, MECF has been the largest remand facility in the country, and is designed to hold up to 976 males of remand accused, remand convicted and sentenced status.

On 15 July 2015 the Department of Corrections (Corrections) became aware that a series of video clips showing organised fighting between prisoners at MECF had been uploaded to the website YouTube. The videos (the YouTube Footage) provide irrefutable evidence of the existence of a ‘fight club’ operating at MECF.

On 17 July 2015 TV3 News screened footage that had been uploaded to YouTube, showing a number of prisoners involved in organised fighting at MECF. Over the following days a number of prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families, came forth with accounts of organised fighting, prisoner on prisoner violence and inhumane treatment during their time at MECF.

The videos uploaded to YouTube had been filmed on contraband cell phones, which raised concerns over prisoner access to cell phones and other contraband on to the site.

An internal investigation is being completed by Serco, which holds the Prison Management Contract for MECF (the Contract). As at the date of this report (Report), Serco’s internal report is yet to be provided to Corrections.

By Terms of Reference dated 27 August 2015 (the Terms of Reference) I was instructed by the Chief Executive of Corrections (the Chief Executive) to conduct a full investigation (the Investigation) into:

a) the possible existence of a ‘fight club’ at MECF; and
b) access of prisoners to contraband, in particular cell phones, at MECF.

The Terms of Reference superseded an earlier terms of reference dated 19 July 2015 (the Earlier Terms of Reference), which instructed me to pay particular attention to the three months prior to that date. Therefore, the Investigation has a particular focus on, but is not limited to, the three months to the date of the Earlier Terms of Reference.

The Corrections Inspectorate (Inspectorate) operates under the Corrections Act 2004, the Corrections Regulations 2005, the mandate of the Chief Executive, and the policies established by the Department relating to the fair, safe, secure and humane treatment of prisoners and those detained within the corrections system.

This Report contains Phase One of the Investigation required by the Terms of Reference.

Phase Two will consist of a review of the adequacy of controls designed to address prisoner violence and access to cell phones operating in other New Zealand prisons, and an investigation into any reported incidents of prisoner on prisoner fighting recorded on cell phones in other New Zealand prisons.