National | Department of Corrections

Author wants Mt Eden prison turned into a penal museum

Mt Eden prison - Source / Wikipedia Commons

Mt Eden prison has housed terrorists, debtors, children, political prisoners and innocent people. The likes of Te Kooti, Te Rua Kēnana, Arapeta Awatere and the wrongly convicted Mokomoko lived, worked and died within its rocky walls.

Mark Derby's new book Rock College is styled as an unofficial history and ends with a poignant proposal.

The case for a penal museum

Rock College author Mark Derby - Photo / File

Derby wants The Rock to be turned into a museum.

“It’s important to learn about our penal history,” he says. “To me, it’s the best use I can think of for this unique publicly-owned structure.”

The prison has been empty for the past ten years and there are no plans, to Derby’s knowledge, to use the premises for anything else.

Life in The Rock

Turning the old prison into a museum could help people understand life behind bars, Derby says.

The Rock was designed to punish inmates not rehabilitate them and had no space for rehabilitation or education programmes. It was damp, cold and uncomfortable for inmates, he says.

In 2016, a man claiming to be a former inmate said there was no toilet paper for three weeks and alleged that prisoners locked up six staff members and threatened to riot if their basic needs were not met.

Serco, the company operating Mt Eden prison that year, denied all the man's claims.

The Rock College author says ex-inmates of the prison have approved of his book saying he got it right.