Central Leader : April 27th 2011
www.centralleader.co.nz Wednesday, April 27, 2011 More and more people are turning to our online editions everyday! Packed with extra features like video,audio, weblinks, galleries, your news and competition they're the ultimate multimedia experience. REE Just click on "Latest Edition" at News that you can Read, Hear & Watch! Upgrade to our online editions www.centralleader.co.nz Farewell The Rock Good times and bad: The historic Mt Eden Prison is being decommissioned now that the new Mt Eden Corrections Facility is up and running and a reunion of people who worked at the old prison is being organised by, from left: Senior corrections officer Tui Laga'aia, Auckland Region Women's Correctional Facility project manager Raewyn Abbott and principal corrections officer Cindy Barton. Photo: JASON OXENHAM By RHIANNON HORRELL IT'S the end of an era for Mt Eden Prison -- a Victorian landmark that holds good and bad memories for those who spent decades working within its confines. The 146-year-old building has seen riots, hostage situations, prisoner building programmes and a major fire. But it also boasts inspi- rational stories of staff cama- raderie, humour and prisoners who have turned their lives around. Former staff refer to it affectionately as The Rock and are calling long-lost colleagues together for a reunion. Auckland Region Women's Correctional Facility regional investigator and project man- ager Raewyn Abbott says half of her working life has been spent with Corrections. It's got huge sentimental value to me and all those who have gone before me,'' Ms Abbott says of the old prison. It gets in your blood. We're very protective of it. There's been good and bad moments from being there and it's become part and parcel of who we are.'' Ms Abbott started as a prison officer before becoming a unit manager and says the new facilities are wonderful and modern but the old Mt Eden was compact and easy to navigate. She recalls being at the centre of a hostage situation about 15 years ago. Two prisoners held me hostage -- there were knives at my neck they had made in jail -- it was extremely trau- matic.'' She survived the ordeal and returned to work. It wasn't over for me -- there's a certain amount of determination you've got to have. I didn't want to be a victim forever. That day changed my life forever.'' Ms Abbott says there have also been inspiring tales, such as when staff know a prisoner won't come back because they've made a posi- tive decision to move forward with their life. Principal corrections officer Cindy Barton says staff have stuck together through thick and thin. We've kept the humour going. There's huge memories for all of us, it's like losing an old friend. We are a Mt Eden family. The closeness of the staff is the hardest thing -- there have been so many changes.'' Senior corrections officer Tui Laga'aia agrees. She was one of the first women to work in the prison. I'm part of the furniture. It's like getting kicked out of home. You can go anywhere in the world and say you work at The Rock and they'll know what you mean. I wouldn't trade this experience for the world -- it's made me grow up. The public don't see what we do.'' Ms Laga'aia says one of the things she'll miss the most is turning a key because the newer prison features mod- ern technology and electronic doors. The prison is a listed his- toric place but no decision has been made about its future use. A dinner is planned for former staff. The End of an Era get- together takes place on May 6 at the Ellerslie Convention Centre from 7pm. Call 021-769-213 or email raewyn.abbott@ corrections.govt.nz for more information if you wish to attend. The life of historic Mt Eden Prison: 1865-2011 Built to replace the Queen St gaol. The prison opened in 1865 and was extended over the following decades. Mt Eden Prison was hailed as the country's ''model'' prison because it was believed such facilities should be an unpleasant and dreaded place. The first prisoners were transferred to the building in 1888 and the buildings were completed around 1917. A superintendent's house was converted into a women's prison in 1964 and was used for that purpose until 2006. In 1945 the public called for the prison to be demolished and in 1951 the government announced it would be. Demolition plans were postponed in 1953 because of a lack of funds. A prison-wide riot broke out in 1965 after a mass breakout attempt. Prisoners surrendered 34 hours later after a major fire which destroyed much of the facility and 61 cells. The prison was gradually rebuilt as a temporary measure but not much was ever restored to original condition.
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