Inmates at New Zealand's Mount Eden Correctional Facility (MECF) have been filmed beating the shit out of each other in organized fights that somehow ended up on YouTube. Mobile phones are prohibited at the 120-year-old prison, as is fighting, so there's an understandable amount of confusion and embarrassment surrounding the release of the videos.
The prison was identified from inmates' clothes bearing the words "SERCO MECF." Serco is the global outsourcing giant that, in 2011, signed a ten-year $300 million NZD [$196 million USD] contract to manage Mount Eden. In the three years that followed, Mount Eden recorded more prisoner assaults than any other prison in New Zealand prison.
Speaking with New Zealand's One News, Serco's Director of Operations, Scott McNairn, said the video is being looked into. "I have commissioned a thorough investigation which will examine these incidents. We will work with the Department of Corrections on any necessary actions arising," McNairn said.
The footage shows one-on-one fights taking place inside cells with other prisoners watching. Throughout the clip, chatter and laughter can be heard in the background. During one clip, a prisoner falls down and another inmate can be heard saying "let him up." Visible tattoos suggest that at least some of the participants are Black Power gang members.
While punches and kicks do land, and the fighters at times seem visibly dazed, the action seems more in the vein of something you'd see in a ring than your spontaneous, garden variety prison assault. Despite onlookers shouting and cheering throughout, none of the altercations are interrupted by guards.
For its part, the prison is investigating the incident for any procedural breakdowns. It also stated that despite authorities' "best efforts to ensure risks are mitigated, we cannot prevent all assaults and no jurisdiction in the world has achieved this." However, preventing single assaults and missing at least six raucous and seemingly organized fights that were filmed on a contraband phone do feel like different things.
Corrections northern regional commissioner, Jeanette Burns, told stuff.co.nz they're currently working with prison management to find out how the footage made it to YouTube. In this year alone, 27 mobile phones and 22 SIM cards have already been found after being smuggled into the facility.
In response to the situation, Mount Eden Corrections Facility has announced it will increase the frequency of contraband searches. Any inmate found in possession of a cellphone could face internal or police charges.
The leaked footage came only days after convicted murderer Nikki Roper was hospitalized following a severe beating in the Mount Eden prison yard. Corrections has reiterated its zero tolerance policy for assaults on staff, prisoners, or guards, commenting: "No assault is acceptable; however, it is an unfortunate reality that from time to time this will occur."