Copycat behaviour among inmates is behind the high number of bomb threats that cripple Manawatu Prison.
In the past five years, 32 bomb threats have been made against New Zealand jails.
Twelve of those were against Manawatu Prison – the highest number for any jail.
Auckland’s Mt Eden Prison had the next highest, with eight.
All of the threats were hoaxes and Corrections chief custodial officer Neil Beales said he believed Manawatu had the highest number as inmates started to copycat behaviour.
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“They want to do it just for the pure nuisance factor.
“What they don’t comprehend is this isn’t just taking away staff from carrying out there normal duties.
“It’s also pulling police and fire away from real emergencies and it’s also disrupting actions of their fellow prisoners as well.”
Beales said they knew a lot of the threats came from inmates themselves, as they could trace the calls to the prison.
They would then check CCTV footage to see which inmate made the threat.
The inmate was then dealt with, usually internally.
However, Beales said he did not know how many inmates had been internally or externally punished for making bomb threats.
When these threats were made, other prisoners then saw how it could disrupt the prison and would then mimic the behaviour to their own advantage, Beales said.
“It becomes a little bit localised for a while… They know the impact.
“So, there’s no particular rhyme or reason.”
But every threat was taken seriously.
“Because Murphy’s law, the one you don’t is the one that is real.”
Procedures were in place for what to do in the event of a bomb threat and this normally saw sections of the prison shut down and prisoners put back into their cells while staff dealt with the incident.
Even though Manawatu Prison had a high number of threats, Beales said it was important to put the numbers into context.
“This is a very, very small minority of prisoners who are acting in a selfish way.”
One example happened in August 2015, when Manawatu Prison was closed for two hours after a bomb threat.
The prison was locked down and Camp Rd closed at the entrance to Linton Military Camp.
A bomb sniffer dog came up from Wellington after someone called the prison to say a bomb had been left in the car park.
Police and Defence Force bomb squad members were called to the prison after the threat was made.
The lockdown caused disruption at Palmerston North District Court, as some remand prisoners were unable to be transported to the courthouse for their scheduled appearances.
The prison was also on lockdown for three hours in May 2015, after a bomb threat.
Manawatu Prison has received 12 bomb threats since 2012, with Mt Eden receiving eight, Rimutaka Prison four, Hawke’s Bay Prison two, Waikeria Prison one and Whanganui Prison one.