New Zealand Prison Opens with In-Cell Computers & Phones

WIRI, New Zealand — The new high-security Kohuora Auckland South Corrections Facility officially opened in Wiri (or south Auckland) last month, and the first batch of inmates moved in on May 18. The men’s prison has the capacity to hold 960 inmates, and each of the prison’s cells contains a computer and phone.

The $300 million prison houses a mixture of high-security and low-security inmates, with 240 living in self-care accommodations. Corrections Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga spoke at the opening ceremony and said that the new facility will focus on discouraging inmates from reoffending once they leave, reported 3 News.

One of the key steps the prison has taken to ensure successful inmate re-entry is to place a computer and phone in each cell. Lotu-Iiga said he believes providing inmates with these devices will help them pursue educational programs that will help get them jobs when they’re released.

A television in each cell doubles as a computer screen with a keyboard and a mouse. As such, inmates can use the computers to study as well as arrange family visits, medical appointments and manage their daily schedule. The computers, however, do not have Internet or email access. Phones are also placed in each cell, but inmates only have access to approved numbers and cannot contact other inmates.

Kohuora is the first New Zealand prison to allow phones and computers in every cell. While the phones and computers will provide inmates with the tools to learn to read, write and gain professional skills, Prison Director Mike Inglis said the prison’s priority will be organizing programs that help reduce recidivism after the men are released, reported The New Zealand Herald.

Construction on the facility began in September 2012, and it is now under a public-private partnership with New Waterford, Canada-based Serco. It is equal in size to Mt. Eden Prison, also run by Serco, reported The New Zealand Herald. Upper Hutt’s Rimutaka Prison was once about the same size, but its operations are being closed now that Auckland inmates can serve their sentence close to home at Kohuora. The facility’s close proximity to Auckland allows inmates to maintain family relationships during their sentence.

Serco recently received negative press after the company lost a cleaning contract in Australia for botching hospital sterilization work. The company was also criticized after it was forced to pay back about $92 million to the British government for services it didn’t deliver. Serco will earn bonuses up to $1.5 million a year if Kohuora prisoners reoffend at rates of 10 to 15 percent below inmates released from other New Zealand jails, reported The New Zealand Herald.

The prison’s 284-member staff has already been recruited, and the prison is expected to be full with inmates by October 2015.