A number of times we’ve blogged about the death of corrections officer Jason Palmer, who died in May 2010 after he was punched by an inmate at Springhill prison in the Waikato, New Zealand. The prisoner, Latu Kepa, was alleged to have been a member of the Killer Beez gang.
Kepa later pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received a six year and four month jail sentence.
Mr Palmer, an ex member of the US Marine Corp, had been living in New Zealand for eight years but something caused him join NZ’s prison service six months before he died . He had reportedly described his new job as a “hand-to-hand combat situation“
At the time the Waikato Times published a report in which the said that Mr Palmer had felt unsafe at the prison and wanted to leave. There were other reports that the prison was understaffed.
A few months later the Sunday News reported that the killing had been a gang ordered hit and that the corrections department knew about the allegations three weeks before Mr Palmer died.
Now Hamilton coroner, Gordon Matenga, has announced he is to hold an inquest into the death of Jason Palmer. His spokeswoman said
“Some issues had been raised and he feels an inquest is necessary and will take place.”
And not before time, in June Mr Palmer’s mother Ada was said to be furious that Kepa was only charged with manslaughter, she vowed to write to John Key and call for changes in prison procedures to protect other officers, many of whom felt poorly equipped to deal with violent prisoners. Jason’s family needs to know what happened to him and the full circumstances of his death. There are lessons to be learned here that may benefit the safety of all corrections officers in New Zealand.
There are shocking revelations in today’s Sunday News that Ex-US marine prison officer Jason Palmer may have died as a result of a gang ordered hit at Springhill prison in the Waitkato, what’s more the paper says that a source has told them that the corrections department knew of the threat to the officer three weeks before he died.
Latu Savelio Kepu, the man who killed Mr Palmer, is said to have links to the Killer Beez gang. He punched Mr Palmer in the head as he was moved out of his cell.
The Sunday News stated:
“…Former US Marine Palmer had laid several misconduct charges against Kepu, including one the day before the deadly attack, the source said. That final charge – for stealing from another inmate’s cell – was enough for Kepu to be transferred to Auckland’s maximum security prison at Paremoremo.
The source said an outline of the threat was contained on Kepu’s prison file, details of which have been circulated around the prison in recent weeks between concerned guards.
What that [the threat note on the file] does is put a hell of a lot of fear into other guards working there, that they could be targeted and that management might know about it [threats] and not do anything about it,” the source said. “The Killer Beez had approved for Kepu to go ahead and deal to Palmer. I do believe it [Palmer's death] could have been avoided…” read the full report here
In June we wrote about Jason’s mother Ada who was said to be furious that Kepu was only charged with manslaughter, she vowed to write to John Key and call for changes in prison procedures to protect other officers, many of whom feel poorly equipped to deal with violent prisoners. Read A Prison Officer’s Thoughts.
This latest news is likely to add further to the grief of Mr Palmer’s families, in both New Zealand and the states. Our thoughts are with them at this time.
Other post tagged Jason Palmer
Latu Kepu, 21, the prisoner who killed prison officer Jason Palmer had had his name suppression lifted but he won’t be facing a murder charge.
Jason’s mother Ada is said to be furious that Kepu has been charged with manslaughter, she’s vowed to write to John Key and call for changes in prison procedures to protect other officers, many of whom feel poorly equipped to deal with violent prisoners. Read A Prison Officer’s Thoughts.
The Corrections Association of NZ is also outraged and is calling for an independent enquiry into Mr Palmer’s death.
Jason himself had said that his job was like hand-to-hand combat, something he would have been familiar with in his previous occupation in the US Marine Corp.
“Mr Palmer’s mother is angry that the man accused of killing her son isn’t facing a murder charge.
Speaking from her home in Virginia, in the United States, Ada Palmer told the Waikato Times she was furious Kepu wasn’t facing the toughest charge possible over her son’s death.
“My son is dead,” she said. “I had to look at my son in a casket.”
The last month had been excruciating for her and she was struggling to understand why it happened.
It was “never OK for a prison guard to be assaulted on the job” and she intended to do everything she could to get Corrections to change their procedures.
“I want them to think of the men and women who work there.”
Mrs Palmer planned to write to Prime Minister John Key and any other group she could in order to get procedures changed.
CALL FOR INQUIRY
The Corrections Association of New Zealand (CANZ) is calling on Corrections Minister Judith Collins to hold an independent inquiry into the death of Mr Palmer.
CANZ president Beven Hanlon said corrections officers deserved an independent investigation to answer their questions about the violent death of a colleague at the hands of a known violent prisoner. All Corrections officers deserved to be safe at work, he said.
“This will only be achieved by an independent investigation into this incident giving us an unbiased determination of what lead up to and contributed to the death of corrections officer Palmer.” Ms Collins said it was important to find out what exactly happened.
“There are three investigations underway, by the Department of Corrections, Police and the Department of Labour. I am confident that the full facts surrounding the tragic death of Jason Palmer will be ascertained.” Mr Hanlon said if there was nothing to hide, then there would be no problem conducting an independent inquiry.
“Too many corrections officers are being assaulted every day and it has become an expectation. We will never learn from this tragedy if we don’t shine a light on the decisions, policies and inactions that contributed to this death.”
Meanwhile, Spring Hill prison was the victim of another bomb scare this morning, but nothing untoward was found.
A police Northern Communications spokesman said they were confident the call was a fake. They kept their response “pretty low-key” as information provided during the phone call was “so sparse”. A call came in about 9.15am. The prison was not evacuated but it was closed and those that were let through were thoroughly searched, he said. A brief search was also carried out of the perimeter fence. It’s the second bomb threat in a month at the prison after a scare on May 18, which resulted in a full police response. ” (source)
No doubt any inquiry will go the same way as the review of Adventure Tourism report (instigated after the father of British tourist Emily Jordan wrote to John Key, calling safety regulation in NZ “third world”) It’s said t0 have been completed but yet to be released to the public.
Ex Marine, Jason Palmer, was a relatively recent immigrant to New Zealand, he came over from the States eight years ago. We’re not sure what he did for a living in the intervening years or why 6 months ago he joined the Corrections service at Spring Hill Prison. A few days ago he died from injuries sustained in an assault by an un-named member of the Killer Beez street gang at that prison.
His death has highlighted the dangerous position that some officers face on a daily basis in NZ’s prisons and how vulnerable some of them feel without stab vests and batons. Mr Palmer had himself described his job as a “hand-to-hand combat situation” and had been trying to transfer to another prison because he felt unsafe at Spring Hill.
Many migrants end up working in the corrections service, often because they’re unable to find suitable and stable work in other occupations.
These posts are from a British man who recently joined the corrections service after living in the South Island for a number of years. His background is in the trades. His story could be a ‘Migrants’ Tale’ . Is it taken from an emigration forum:
“A fellow Prison Officer died as a result of an assault and as i do this job day to day and can understand what goes on in these places, my heart goes out to his family and collegues who witnessed it. When will the GOVT realise we need side batons and cs spray, but oh no it will hurt prisoners feelings.
…A very sad time for all involved, we enter a wing in the mornings and after issuing a razor if they want one, we then collect them all and after that unlock one landing at a time, when issuing razors we only get a reply from them and a face to name muster check, some are still sleepy and we get a grunt, occasionally we get told to F##k off or other nice friendly words or greetings, you can sort of judge the way they will come out of their cells first thing, after a while you get to know their moods and traits, we have some on methadone programs, and they can be a handful in the mornings before their meds, we have ones with ADHD, ODD and all sorts of phychopathic behaviours, nice ay, so unlocking in the day any time can be a dangerous thing.
Apart from that we manage our guys very well and look after each others backs.
…Yes this was a tragety waiting to happen, when we open the cell doors first thing in the morning you dont know what you are going to get, thye wake up shitty or wake up happy, and although we unlock a guy who is on a mangement plan with 3 officers, if that guy comes out full blast, then its game on, if they privatise Prisons we will all leave the job as it will get worse, safety wise, personally we need pepper spray and side batons.
This week we will get about 40 from the North Island, not sure why but we have had theses inmates before and they are trouble, so watch this space, we should get them this week, apparently they are those gang called the Killa Bees, so we will have a right mix to deal with, Mongrel Mob, Black Power, White Power, Crypts and now the Bees so let the fun begin, i do sometimes wonder as i walk down the wing with all these eyes watching your every move, not all the ones we have are up for smashing us, but the odd few go for it, the staff on my wing are awesome, we all watch where are collegues are and make sure we are all safe, the main satisfying thing is locking this scum bags up and keeping them away from the communities.
It is a satisfying career and the commardiery ( excuse the spelling ) is fantastic, we have fun each day with each other and the prisoners as well, i do really enjoy the job, and the wife works there to, and she loves it to, the good days far out weigh the bad, and we try to keep it that way.
But my thoughts are with our collegues family and the prison have set up a fund collection, no consulation, but a way of helping.”
N… Don’t forget to include his son Taylor back in Kingsville, Texas.
It’s unclear what proportion of the present prison population is made up of gang members. A 2003 study showed that 11.3% of prison inmates were gang members. Of these, about a third each were Mongrel Mob or Black Power, with no other gangs having more than 5% of the imprisoned gang population. (source) A great deal more of them are free and walking around the streets of New Zealand.
According to the book Gangs by Ross Kemp, New Zealand has more gangs per head then any other country in the world, with about seventy major gangs and over 4,000 patched members in a population of about 4,000,000 people. (see videos in the side bar)
The greater part of the Kiwi prison population seems to be comprised of people with mental health disorders. If so one has to ask are prison officers are given specific training on how to deal with them and should officers be provided with more protective equipment?
A national Study of Psychiatric Morbidity in NZ Prisons may show evidence that a failure to provide adequate treatment and support to people with mental illnesses is reflected in the high number of convicts with mental health disorders. Nearly 60% of all inmates in NZ have at least one personality disorder:
“The results indicate a significantly higher rate of mental disorder than that in the community. This is particularly so for schizophrenia, for bipolar disorder, for major depression, for obsessive compulsive disorder and for post traumatic stress disorder. All these conditions are associated with high levels of distress and disability, especially during the acute phases of these illnesses.
The National Study also revealed that nearly 60 percent of all inmates have at least one major personality disorder.
The National Study estimates that all inmates who have a current diagnosis of schizophrenia or a related disorder and bipolar disorder will require active psychiatric treatment and of those, 135 will require inpatient treatment. The life-time and one-month prevalence for these disorders is significantly higher than in the community. Of those inmates in the acute phase of these disorders, 30.6 percent are currently receiving mental health medication.”
This post may be updated…
Ex US Marine Corp member Jason Palmer has been named as the prison officer killed by an inmate at Spring Hill prison in the Waikato. Mr Palmer died from his injuries after an assault that took place on May 15 2010.
Members of the Trademe message boards have talked about under-staffing being a problem at the prison
Sources have told reporters at the Dominion Post that the man responsible for the attack was a member of the Killer Beez, one of many gangs that terrorise the small islands of New Zealand (read Killer Beez a school for gangstas). Their activities and recruitment has spread out of South Auckland into areas like the North Shore, however their presence is often downplayed and kept out of news reports so as not to generate adverse publicity.
The press will often refer to gangs now as “rival groups” and muggers/armed robbers will be said to have been “wearing bandannas” (code for gang members)
Even children aren’t safe from these gangs. A 4 year old boy was recently attacked in a park for wearing a red T shirt – the official colour of the Mongrel Mob and an innocent 15 year old kid was deliberately ran over in a gang initiation ritual.
Some towns in the country are very keen to play down their gang problem, one council even edited a Wikipedia page to remove references to gang crime.
Mr Palmer emigrated from America eight years ago, no doubt looking for a better and safer lifestyle in which to raise a family. He leaves behind a 13 year old son named Taylor Palmer who lives with his mother in Kingsville, Texas; his present wife Tracy and their two small children Riley, 5, and Abbey, 2. Our heartfelt condolences go out to them all for the sad loss of their father and husband.
“An inmate accused of assaulting a guard who later died was a Killer Beez gang member under segregation, sources say.
Jason Palmer, 33, a former member of the United States Marine Corps who came to New Zealand eight years ago, died yesterday after an inmate at Spring Hill Corrections Facility, about 65km south of Auckland, punched him in the head about 1pm on Saturday.
Mr Palmer was one of three officers unlocking an inmate’s cell when the attack happened. The punch threw him to the floor, where he hit his head. He was taken to Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital suffering massive head injuries. Life support was turned off yesterday afternoon.
…The prisoner involved was under segregation at the time of the attack, and has since been shifted to the maximum security unit in Auckland Prison at Paremoremo. He will appear in Hamilton District Court this morning charged with assault. More charges are likely.
He has not been named, but sources told The Dominion Post that he was a member of the Killer Beez, a South Auckland gang.
Department of Corrections chief executive Barry Matthews said it appeared Mr Palmer was punched shortly after he and two other prison guards opened the segregated inmate’s cell.
He fell back and hit his head on the floor as the other two guards restrained the prisoner…more
According to the book Gangs by Ross Kemp (see video in the side bar to the right) New Zealand has more gangs per head then any other country in the world, with about seventy major gangs and over 4,000 patched members in a population of about 4,000,000 people.
According to the sociologist Jarrod Gilbert, New Zealand has had problems with youth and street gangs since the 1950s. However organised crime gangs such as those which currently dominate the New Zealand scene mostly date from the 1970s. ‘Gangsta’ style gangs have been a presence in New Zealand since the early 1990s but individual gangs of this type are typically short lived.
New Zealand gangs have generally been heavily influenced by their American counterparts. Although Black Power takes its name from the black liberation movement of the same name, in many ways it and similar gangs are much more akin to white American motorcycle gangs such as the Hell’s Angels. Since the early 1990s newer gangs have primarily been influenced by African American street gangs such as the Crips and Bloods.
Gangs of New Zealand (source Wikipedia)
Black Power was formed in the late 1960s in Whakatane, and its membership is primarily Māori and Pacific Islander. It has been involved with various kinds of crime, particularly drug dealing. Its symbol is the clenched fist of the American black power movement, and its colours are blue and black.
Hells Angels MC
The Hells Angels motorcycle club founded a chapter in Auckland in 1961 and has since taken over gangs in Wanganui. New Zealand had the first chapter of the Hells Angels outside the US.
Highway 61 MC
The Highway 61 motorcycle club is currently the largest outlaw motorcycle club in New Zealand. The motorcycle club currently has chapters in Auckland, Hastings, Rotorua, Wellington, Christchurch and also Sydney, Australia.. By 2008 it had expanded into Brisbane and the Gold Coast in eastern Australia.
The Mongrel Mob was formed and organised in Hastings about 1968 and, like its Black Power rivals, is primarily Māori and Pacific Islander. The gang has been active in organised crime and has been involved in several murders. Its symbol is a bulldog wearing a German Stahlhelm helmet, and the gang makes use of other Nazi imagery. Their colours are red and black. The Mongrel Mob is currently the biggest gang in New Zealand.
In 1977 the Nomads split from Black Power.
Road Knights MC
The Road Knights motorcycle club operates in the South Island. They are based in Invercargill, Timaru and Christchurch. The gang has ties with the Hells Angels, Red Devils and the Harris Gang and are rivals with the Mongrel Mob.
The Tribesmen is a prominently Māori motorcycle club formed in the 1980s in Otara. It is connected to the Killerbeez youth street gang.
- Devil’s Henchmen MC (Christchurch and Timaru) – the original South Island outlaw motorcycle club, formed in Christchurch in 1973
- Epitaph Riders MC (Christchurch and Greymouth)
- Filthy Few MC (Tauranga, Rotorua, Waihi and Matamata)
- Forty Five MC (Auckland)
- Greasy Dogs (Mount Maunganui)
- Headhunters MC (Auckland, Wellsford, Northland and Tauranga)
- Huhu MC (Tokoroa), started as a largely bush crew from the early 1950s, MC in the early 1970s.
- Lone Legion MC (Blenheim)
- Lost Breed MC (Nelson)
- Magogs MC (New Plymouth)
- Mothers MC (Palmerston North)
- Outcasts MC (Hamilton)
- Outlaws MC (Napier)
- Red Devils MC (Nelson)
- Satans Slaves MC (Wellington)
- Sinn Fein MC (Upper Hutt)
- Southern Vikings MC (Dunedin)
- Templars MC (Christchurch)
- Tyrants MC (Pahiatua)
- Ara Toa Whanau MC (Palmerston North, Horowhenua, Heretaunga)
- Hammerskins (Nationwide) – Nazi-skinhead gang.
- King Cobras (Auckland) – formed in central Auckland during the 1960s, K.C started as a largely Samoan gang but including some Pakeha and people from other Polynesian countries.
- StormTroopers (Dargaville)
- Tribal Huk (Ngaruawahia)
- FBI’s (Full Blooded Islanders)- Pacific Islanders – Wellington/Nationwide[
- Bloods (Youth Gang,Nationwide)
- Crips (Youth Gang,Nationwide)
- Darksiders (Youth Gang – Connected to Black Power, Wellington)
- Dope Money Sex (Youth Gang) – Central Auckland
- Killerbeez (Youth Gang – Connected to the Tribesman)
A snapshot of gang activity in NZ 2009
June – Tuari Damyn Karipa-Rangi pleads guilty in the robbery and assault of two men in Christchurch. The gang associated with the violent mugging is named as the YSK – Young Skuxx Klicxx at youth street gang with 10-20 members
June – ‘Two bashed in gang turf clash’ -Two patched Mongrel Mob members were set upon and beaten up by at least four rival gang members in the car park of the Tamatea Pak’nSave supermarket at 3.45 in the afternoon.
June – Gang violence out of control in New Zealand – In the Hawkes Bay region of the North Island, police say it is a matter of pure luck that they are not dealing with multiple murders after members of a local gang chapter tore apart a 21st birthday party, using knives, baseball bats and a machete.
Feb – “Gang life is one of petty terrorism, violence and hatred” Said Wellington’s mayor after the gang related drive-by shooting in which three year old Jhia Te Tua died in her parents’ home. Gangs involved were Black Power and Mongrel Mob.
Feb – “The danger of serious youth violence is increasing as juvenile gangs take up weapons, Hastings’ top police officer has warned. In a police crime report to be discussed by city leaders, Inspector Dean Clifford says the suburb of Flaxmere has between 13 and 15 gangs for just 10,300 residents.”
Feb – “Mayors play down gang problem after brawls – Brawls in Wairoa and Gisborne including one between Black Power and Mongrel Mob members, resulted in arrests at the weekend but local mayors are defending their area, saying it does not have a gang problem”
Other gang related blog posts:
Also see posts tagged GANGS on blogspot
Spring Hill Prison
We have a friend who was an officer at Springhill and he left about 6 months ago as he said that the place was way understaffed and that something like this was going to happen and sadly it has.
“Each prison is issued with a LIMITED amount of stab proof vests & batons but staff are not allowed to wear them on duty – only for certain incidents or tasks…The Dept. of Corrections mislead the public with how they do their press releases.
Last week, in Milton Prison alone, 4 staff were assaulted, one hit from behind be a meal tray & then kicked in the head whilst down. It’s insane, prison staff are unsafe and need better resources to deal with the violent prison population. The Dept. and Government don’t want to listen to the prison guards union because what is needed costs money & they’re too busy being cheap ar*es…”