Controlling spaces, gangs and violence in the prison ecology - Te Puna Haumaru Seminar Series

You are invited to join us for the first seminar of 2024 in the Te Puna Haumaru Seminar Series, delivered by Dr Armon Tamatea on controlling spaces, gangs and violence in the prison ecology. Interpersonal violence and aggression is widely recognised as a reality in prisons across the world. The pervasiveness and seeming inevitability of violent behaviour in prisons suggests that it is a ‘wicked problem’. However, prisons are human environments and are governed by human-centred principles that reflect formal (e.g., behavioural expectations monitored by staff) and informal (e.g., ways of being influenced and regulated by prisoners) practices. Notions of ‘prison culture’ indicate informal collective practices that have developed to cope with the constraints of prison, but also establish possibilities for quality of life enhancement. In addition, the presence and growth of gangs in prisons has resulted in systemic responses that have marginalised an already-marginalised group of people in prison. Recognising the complex dynamics that constantly play-out in prisons, this seminar presents an ecological view and discusses prisons as human ecosystems that includes a consideration of individual characteristics, site conditions, local knowledge (cultural and historical), whanau (family) and the wider community as important elements in redefining violence – and the prevention thereof – In these spaces. Drawing from clinical experience and applied research in New Zealand prisons and gang communities, this presentation discusses the nature of prison culture and the role of gangs in the commission and control of violence in New Zealand prisons. The importance of a culturally-accountable philosophy of care, Indigenous ways of being, and the priorities of Indigenous stakeholders in promoting safety and wellbeing for those who reside and work in our prisons are discussed.