The Death Of Jason Palmer – Another Prison Officer’s Thoughts

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…

6 thoughts on “The Death Of Jason Palmer – Another Prison Officer’s Thoughts

  1. They make a big deal out of being anti-hierarchy here. No one can pull any sort of rank. In situations where hierarchy is important for keeping order, this obviously doesn’t work.

    I have been talking to a girlfriend from the States, who came over to work as a psychiatric nurse in NZ. She soon left the field. There are no trained security people there on or near the wards, in the mental hospitals, to help the nurses handle these strong violent men. In fact, she said that the doctors would actually turn tail and run at the first sign of aggression, leaving the poor nurses to deal with the violence. Appalling.

    Attention, migrating policemen, nurses, security guards, or anyone who works with this type of population – you will be on your own!

  2. I believe that I met Jason, I was new to the SpringHill population as a counselor with Care NZ, that fucking company. Care NZ management did nothing to advise me on the inmates that were out of control, just threw me in there with 10 of them and said “good luck”. I have experience in the prison system, I had worked in Maryland for 3 years prior to that and never felt scared. I did at SpringHill, lax prison guards, I totally blame them for Jason’s death. I quit, there prior to the event that happened with Jason. I felt afraid, and Care NZ didn’t give a fuck nor did SpringHill, there was some bitch in charge at the Prison that wanted everything covered up and it was a Maori name.. figures. I have lost a relationship due to the crap there, I think Care NZ and SpringHill both poisoned my name due to my own concerns. I am now back in the States. I do know that I grieve not only for my own loss but I know that if Jason, a seasoned veteran in both the military as well as corrections had concerns, then fuck NZ Corrections, they are liable, not matter what

    • I don’t know if you are still subscribed to this site, but I was there when Jason was killed. There were 2 Maori female managers that day, and as we know it was a massive cover-up. I know exactly what happened and how it was dealt with. Much of those events remain a source of distress to me. I am going to write about it, but not until I leave the country.

  3. Because my son was murdered in a Florida jail by prison guards, I found this story about the New Zealand prison system an about face of the high mortality rate of inmates in the U.S. Our prisons and jails are run by sadistic killers who relish the thought they can do anything to inmates and get away with it. It is a national disgrace that these crimes are committed, recorded, documented, repeated and not one public official will take responsibility. My son was arrested in Florida with no basis in fact, all visits were cancelled by the jail, he was transported to a local hospital where he died. The funeral director was so alarmed by the condition of my son’s body – covered with cuts, wounds around his wrists and ankles and an inordinate number of tissue samples by the M.E., he had to wrap his body in plastic so he could be sent to New York for burial. My son had a number of health problems and according to my research, besides homicide by another inmate, suicide, beatings and torture by prison guards, there is no medical treatment given to prisoners. I buried my 43 year old son with his sister who died of swine flu two months before in the same grave. Now I visit my children at the cemetery. Losing my children has been the most devastating event for me. But whether you are a prison guard or a prisoner, safety should be guaranteed and prison officials need to be held accountable.

  4. Thanks for speaking out, your comment about grappling techniques sounds very similar to Jason Palmer’s “hand to hand combat” remark.

    Your message has been included in Chapter 3 of our Migrants’ Tales, because more people need to read about working conditions in NZ prisons. Immigrants are often recruited into the NZ prison system and it’s good for them to know that other countries have much better (and safer) systems.

  5. I use to work for NZ Corrections and I left after one years service.
    My former occupation was a prison officer in another country.

    I was always at loggerheads with the bureaucracy and the over abundance of middle management.
    No “hierarchy of force” in place for staff. All NZ has is grappling techniques and a script. No word of a lie.The last time I looked I was not a thespian.
    What do you do when prisoners smear themselves in shit? They do not mention these types of scenario’s or prisoners with serious mental issues do they?

    In NZ a strip search is a joke.The prisoner takes his upper torso(clothing) off first and puts it back on, followed by the bottom half.
    This defeats the whole purpose of a strip search.Take all of your clothes off.
    nice and simple.No quoting acts and regulations.
    The prisoner is on remand or sentenced.They automatically fall under the state.

    You see where I am going with this? Everything is complicated and not simplified.
    They have paperwork for everything. The same information recorded on three to four forms and journals.How about one journal?

    As long as you put your name onto something the department will always have a scapegoat.
    I do not know if a prisoner is going to commit suicide or murder someone?
    Each incident and situation is unique so it creates a lot of variables.

    CANZ is a joke.All they do is whinge about private prisons but yet cannot remedy poor remuneration and the crapfest rosters that they implement.

    The prison that I was trained in was of a para-military system whereas NZ is run by a civilian system.
    Officers and prisoners talk on a first name basis.Officers track prisoners down on a name to face muster.
    Para-military styled prisons order(not ask) prisoners to form up rank and file during musters.
    They should come to me, not the other way around.

    If you are in NZ Corrections you know what I am talking about.
    I could go on forever.

    Good luck for all officers that have to endure all the bullshit.If you are a new officer you will not know any different because New Zealand train you to be in the dark.


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