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After a six-day standoff, Waikeria Prison inmates have surrendered and were escorted out by MP for Waiariki and co-leader of the Māori Party Rawiri Waititi.
At around midday, the 16 inmates surrendered.
A statement was posted on Mr Waititi’s Facebook page.
“As previously expressed, I have had constant contact with the whānau involved in this protest, and they were adamant that they would only surrender with me present to ensure that no injury occurred to any officers or protesters,” he said.
Mr Waititi arrived at the prison at around 9:30 am to take the opportunity and let the prisoners know they stood up for their rights and fought for them by making the decision to surrender.
“They were ready to come down. Naturally, they were tired and hungry but still very determined to see change. They have achieved what they set out to do when they embarked on bringing attention to their maltreatment in Prison,” he said.
“When injustice is normalised, defiance and protest is necessary. These men are the product of such injustices, and through their protest, they have changed the face Corrections forever.”
“Whilst people that do crime must serve their time, and they must also be treated in a just and humane way.”
Prison guards acknowledged to Mr Waititi and his group that the state of the units was unacceptable.
The inmates protested over poor management conditions and treatment at the prison, including no supply of clean bedding and clothing.
An unannounced inspection of the facility took place during August of 2020. The prison is reportedly in bad condition according to the Ombudsman from a published report.
The report reads prisoners were double-bunked in cells that can hold only one inmate. A lacking of natural light and inadequate ventilation systems were added. The unit was no longer fit for its purpose of housing inmates.
A proposed facility is scheduled to open in 2022 next to the old buildings that are not fit for purpose, at Waikeria Prison.
The cost to build the new facility is around $750m.
Mr Waititi continued, “If you treat a person like a dog, they will act like one, and that is the saddest part of this whole saga; a failed criminal justice system adopted from a land 19000 kilometres away. It was wrong 250 years ago, and it is wrong today.”
“Finally, I would like to acknowledge all of the authorities involved in this operation; for allowing me to be involved in the surrender of our boys and for managing a peaceful outcome in what has been a very trying time for all.”
“Allowing me to go in proves that when we drop the red tape, treat our people with dignity and allow for us as Māori to deal with our own in a Māori way, we succeed,” concluded Mr Waititi.