The Gravy - Series Four, Episode 11 (Prisons)

Television, 2009 (Full Length Episode)

This episode of The Gravy takes an in-depth look at art in prisons. Host Warren Maxwell interviews inmates who have embraced painting or carving while serving time in Mt Eden, Paremoremo and Rimutaka prisons. At Rimutaka, art tutor Paul Bradley points out that art is a vehicle for change both for prisoners and the art audience, and former prisoners talk about how art has changed their lives for the better. Outside the walls, Warren visits at a caged exhibit of musical instruments at Artspace in Auckland and plays a few bars on the flute.

The Confessions of Prisoner T

Television, 2013 (Excerpts)

In 1994, Teina Pora was found guilty of the rape and murder of Susan Burdett. He spent 22 years behind bars despite physical evidence implicating someone else, and concerns over the reliability of Pora's confession. In this Māori Television documentary, director Michael Bennett examines the case against Pora, and private investigator Tim McKinnel's belief in his innocence. This excerpt includes footage from Pora’s original police interview and a visit where he fails to identify Burdett’s house. In 2015 the Privy Council quashed Pora's conviction

The Beginner’s Guide to Prisons

Television, 1983 (Full Length Episode)

Broadcaster Ian Johnstone was an intrepid explorer for TVNZ's 80s Beginner's Guide documentary series; the series embedded personal guides to lift the veil on everything from marae protocol to the Freemasons. This edition sees a crime (embezzlement of TVNZ money) pinned to 47-year-old Johnstone by the CIB and so begins his (fictional) experience of judicial process and imprisonment. A humbled Johnstone aims to convey what life behind bars is like, and bust some myths en route, from "they only serve half their time don’t they?" to "it's like a four star hotel".

An Inside Story

Television, 1998 (Full Length)

In this 1998 documentary, made for TV3’s Inside New Zealand slot, prisoners provide straight-talking descriptions of life on the inside. Collectively rejecting any idea of prison as a soft option, they talk about missing sunlight, closing up emotionally, and how even “the staunchest” end up crying. One long-timer argues that imprisonment is an expected part of becoming a gang member. Statistics provide food for thought about the life cycle of criminality — 78 per cent of inmates have no school qualifications; 80 per cent were abused as children.

First Hand - Sister to the Sinner

Television, 1992 (Full Length Episode)

For 10 years Sister Joan Timpany served as the Catholic chaplain at Paremoremo Prison, where the country's most dangerous criminals are incarcerated. The cheerful nun is interviewed in this First Hand documentary by new director Leanne Pooley (Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls). Prisoners adore Sister Joan; many call her a mother figure. An inmate called Julian performs a song he wrote for her, with the lyrics: "There’s no other here to listen, I can always count on her to be a friend." Sister Joan was awarded the Queen's Service Order in 1993 for her community service. She died in 2006.

Songs from The Inside - Series Three, Episode One

Television, 2015 (Full Length Episode)

This acclaimed Māori Television series saw Kiwi musicians teaching bars behind bars — working with prisoners to compose and record songs, drawn from their life experiences. In this opening episode from the third season, Anika Moa, Ladi6, Scribe and Troy Kingi head to Christchurch’s men’s and women’s prisons. For Moa, Ladi6 and Scribe, Christchurch is their "music whakapapa". For Scribe it is a reminder of earthquake tragedy. The jail itself revives memories of childhood visits to his father (an upbringing which the two explored in 2015 play The White Guitar).

Winners & Losers: A Lawful Excuse

Television, 1976 (Full Length)

This episode of anthology series Winners & Losers takes a fresh angle on going straight. Smooth-talking criminal Mick (Ian Mune) dreams of starting over, by cultivating mushrooms with cellmate Charlie (Coronation Street's Ivan Beavis). Charlie claims to have committed a lawful murder, thanks to a technicality. In an inspired change to Barry Crump's original story, Mick commandeers a bus to finance the pair's plan. Crump praised the episode, but felt that Mick and Charlie treat their third cellmate unfairly. Director Roger Donaldson cameos in a red Swanndri during the bus scenes.

Dog Squad - Series Two, Episode One

Television, 2011 (Full Length Episode)

This long-running series tails working dogs and their handlers, who are helping protect New Zealand’s streets, borders, prisons and national parks. This opening episode of the second season sees dog squad member Dan "come a cropper", while chasing thieves; one prison visitor leaves with an unusual gift from inside (while other visitors are worried about their drugs from the night before); and Auckland Airport sniffer dogs snuff out some unwanted imports. Dog Squad's first two seasons were produced by Cream Media, shortly before the company was taken over by Greenstone TV.

Deportees of Tonga - Gangsters in Paradise

Web, 2019 (Full Length)

American-raised, Kiwi based photographer Todd Henry produced this documentary for Vice, after meeting deportee 'Ila Mo'unga while visiting Tonga. Mo'unga was drawn to Henry after hearing his familiar American accent. Tonga is now home to hundreds of deportees — permanent residents of New Zealand, Australia or the United States who committed serious crimes and did jailtime, then were put on a plane to start a new life in an unfamiliar culture. The lucky ones have family land, or a place to stay. But many start from scratch and without institutional support, old bad habits can kick in. 

Memories of Service 1 - James Easton

Web, 2015 (Full Length)

At the age of 97, former Australian soldier James Easton recounts his experiences as a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II in this episode of Memories of Service. Captured at the fall of Singapore, Jim spent more than three years in captivity, including 12 months working on the infamous Burma Railway. He unflinchingly recalls illness, brutality and 16-hour working days. Suffering from dysentery and dengue fever, Easton lost about 30 kilograms in his time as a prisoner of war. More than 8000 Australians died in Japanese prison camps.