Mount Eden Prisons

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The old Mt Eden prison exterior.
Exterior view of the old prison.

Mount Eden Prisons consists of two separate facilities in the Auckland, New Zealand suburb of Mount Eden — the Mount Eden Prison and the Mount Eden Corrections Facility.[1]


The original Mount Eden prison was a military stockade built in 1856. It became Auckland's main prison when the old city jail on the corner of Queen and Victoria Streets was demolished in 1865. The stone wall and the foundations were completed in 1872, the building proper was commenced in 1882 and finished in 1917.

Intended to house 220 prisoners, it was designed by Pierre Finch Martineau Burrows and resembles Dartmoor Prison in England. Its design consisted of wings radiating from the centre like the spokes of a wheel.[2] This allowed for control from the centre and "a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind",[3] an application of the panopticon prison design theories of Jeremy Bentham.

The prison has a colourful history. Prisoners were executed there and it was the site of New Zealand's last execution, in 1957 when Walter James Bolton was hanged for poisoning his wife Beatrice.[4] There were few escapes but a song was written about one famous escaper, George Wilder. In 1963, he escaped and was free for 172 days, during which time he travelled 2,610 kilometres (1,620 mi) and committed 40 crimes. Pat Boone's song 'Speedy Gonzales' was rewritten by the Howard Morrison Quartet and became "George The Wilder Colonial Boy".[5]

There was a major riot on 20 and 21 July 1965. Prisoners rioted for 33 hours after a prison guard caught two prisoners trying to escape. New Zealand Special Air Service troopers and NZ Army Gunners were brought in to help quell the mayhem and reinforce NZ Corrections staff and NZ Police officers. [6] Chaos ensued as prisoners burnt much of the prison, including the prison records.[7] The riot was a sensational event for the pupils and staff of the two neighbouring boys' secondary schools, St Peter's College[8] and Auckland Grammar School.[9] The old prison has been given a "Category I" classification by Heritage New Zealand.


In July 2000, the prison was kept in control of the Department of Corrections and a new building transferred to the control of Australasian Correctional Management Limited (later Global Expertise in Outsourcing NZ Ltd) and became New Zealand's first privately run prison. It was renamed the Auckland Central Remand Prison. However, the Labour Party was opposed to the privatisation of prisons, and in July 2005 put the prison back under the control of the Department of Corrections.[10]

The Prisons have been the site of several protests. Pictured is a protest which took place in October 2007 over recent police raids.

In June 2007 it was announced that a new six-storey prison building and a four-storey accommodation block would be built on the southern side of the building by 2011, adding 450 beds. The Auckland Central Remand Facility was then amalgamated into a new Mt Eden Correctional Facility. The plan was for the old prison to be converted to administrative space, in accordance with its heritage classification. To date it has not happened and lays dormant.[4]

The redevelopment included a secure gatehouse, a visitor centre and a multilevel carpark added to the structure. Tunnels link the different sections. The barbed wire around the complex disappeared and was replaced by high and secure walls.[4] There was some criticism of the proposed height of the new prison building, which at up to 30 metres (98 ft) is visible from the nearby motorway viaduct and towers over the surrounding area, which has a 15-metre (49 ft) building height limit. Vocal opponents included the former Mayor of Auckland, John Banks.[11]

In May 2010, the National-led government decided that contract management would again be implemented at Auckland Central Remand Prison. The contract was awarded to Serco, a British company that runs prisons in several different countries.[12]

On 16 July 2015, footage of "fight clubs" within the prison emerged online and was reported by TVNZ. Serco was heavily criticized for not investigating until after the footage was screened.[13] On 24 July, Serco's contract to run the Mount Eden prison was revoked and operation was given back to the New Zealand Department of Corrections.[14] Serco was ordered to pay $8 million to the New Zealand government as a result of problems at Mount Eden Prison while it was under Serco's management.[15]

Notable inmates[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mount Eden Corrections Facility Redevelopment Archived 10 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Corrections Department Factsheet
  2. ^ History of Mt Eden Archived 10 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Corrections Department website.
  3. ^ Bentham, Jeremy. Panopticon (Preface). In Miran Bozovic (ed.), The Panopticon Writings, London: Verso, 1995, 29-95.
  4. ^ a b c Binning, Elizabeth (15 June 2007). "Six-storey jail for Mt Eden". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
  5. ^ The Howard Morrison Quartet (from the '' website. Retrieved 2007-10-20.)
  6. ^ The Auckland Prison Riot, 1965 (from the Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 2007-11-10.)
  7. ^ Auckland City Libraries, Heritage Image 7-A2108 (retrieved 9 June 2011) (Photograph taken 2 September 1965 - unknown photographer) Mt Prison Prison some two months after the riot and fire - the damage to the buildings is very evident.
  8. ^ Matt Elliott, Upon This Rock: 75 years of St Peter's College, Mountain Road, pp. 57 and 313.
  9. ^ Fifty Years at Grammar or Tales Out of School - Nicholls, C. N. ("Streak"), ESA Books, 1987, Page 218
  10. ^ Privately-run prisons not an option, says Swain New Zealand Herald, 13 July 2005.
  11. ^ Orsman, Bernard (4 December 2007). "Mayor incensed at high-rise jail plan". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
  12. ^ Controversial private prison opens, The New Zealand Herald, 30 March 2011.
  13. ^ "Exclusive: Secret gang fight club at Mt Eden Prison revealed". Luke Appleby/ONE News. 16 July 2015. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  14. ^ Serco admits 'fight club' reports came months ago, The New Zealand Herald, 20 July 2015
  15. ^ "Serco to pay $8m to Corrections". Radio New Zealand. 4 April 2016. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  16. ^ Lambert, Florinda. "Robert Herman Wallath". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  17. ^ The fall of the house of Dotcom (23 Nov 2014)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°52′02″S 174°46′01″E / 36.8671543°S 174.7669029°E / -36.8671543; 174.7669029