Christchurch, New Zealand – In a significant move, a prison unit aimed at handling dangerous offenders has been made permanent in the aftermath of the horrific Christchurch mosque attacks. This development comes as authorities are increasingly concerned about the risk of radicalization and the emergence of extremist ideologies among prisoners.
Response to the Christchurch Terror Attacks
In direct response to the tragic events that unfolded in March 2019, where 51 innocent lives were lost and numerous others were injured, the Prisoners of Extreme Risk Unit was established. Situated at Auckland Prison, this specialized unit is staffed by trained professionals who are equipped to handle New Zealand’s highest-risk prisoners.
To support the management of prisoners held in this extreme risk unit, as well as other high-risk individuals in different regions, the Prisoners of Extreme Risk Directorate was also established.
Increasing Concerns of Radicalization
In a recently released briefing to the incoming minister, the Department of Corrections revealed that the decision to make the prison unit permanent had been made. The specific date of this decision, however, was not disclosed.
The briefing document highlighted that there has been a growing number of individuals within the prison system who display indicators and risk factors associated with radicalization or violent extremism. Corrections emphasized the need for additional measures to safely manage these individuals, as they pose an ongoing risk of serious violence. Moreover, some prisoners have the capability to influence others towards engaging in acts of violence or making threats within the prison environment.
Government Collaboration to Mitigate Risks
Corrections acknowledged their role in countering the risks posed by new, more sophisticated gangs, domestic and international organized crime groups. Recognizing that organized crime undermines community well-being, proper governance, economic development, and national security, the department collaborates with intelligence agencies across the government to tackle these threats.
Furthermore, Corrections is actively involved in supporting the government’s counter-terrorism efforts. As one of the agencies tasked with implementing the recommendations outlined in the 2020 Royal Commission of Inquiry report into the terrorist attack, they play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and security of New Zealand.
Commitment to Public Safety
The establishment of a permanent prison unit for dangerous offenders marks a significant step in the ongoing efforts to prevent radicalization and combat extremism within the New Zealand prison system. By proactively managing high-risk individuals and working in collaboration with other government agencies, Corrections aims to safeguard public safety and uphold the values of a secure and inclusive society.
As the nation continues to heal from the scars left by the Christchurch terror attacks, this new development serves as a testament to the commitment and determination to prevent such tragic incidents in the future.