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Man arrested at Work and Income office hours after leaving prison

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 19/08/2018

Jamie Mako served his full prison sentence and said he expected to be treated better by a government agency. © RNZ / Leigh-Marama McLachlan Jamie Mako served his full prison sentence and said he expected to be treated better by a government agency. A man arrested for shoving a security guard at a Work and Income office just hours after leaving prison is blaming rude and intimidating staff.

After four years behind bars for aggravated robbery, Jamie Mako was high on life when he was released from Rimutaka Prison on 24 July.

But things quickly turned sour for the 46-year-old.

He went straight to Work and Income in Lower Hutt to get a $350 Steps to Freedom grant people get when they leave prison, and said he was belittled.

"I was on a natural high - being incarcerated for so many years," he said.

Mako said the receptionist was rude and spoke down to him, telling him he had to go to Upper Hutt to cash in his grant.

"I reacted negatively, I swore, I used a couple of derogatory words," he said.

"The security guards came over and they were right in my face and I felt intimidated. My natural reaction was to get them out of my way."

On his way out, Mako pushed a guard with one arm forcing the man to take a few steps backwards.

Within an hour, he was arrested at the Upper Hutt office for assault.

"I felt like my world had fallen apart you know - I've only been out for 13 gigabytes, and then to face all that again."

He said he was taught techniques to cope with tension in prison, but said it was a different story when "you are in the real world".

"Getting out to mainstream society to be judged to be told go here, go there, you are getting nothing. It was frustrating."

But Work and Income rejects Mako's version of events.

It said staff were polite to him and only told him to go to Upper Hutt because he asked for a cheque, and Lower Hutt does not offer them.

No caption © RNZ / Leigh-Marama McLachlan No caption Most Wellington offices only put grants directly into bank accounts.

Wellington regional commissioner for social development Louise Waaka said he reacted when he was told he could not get a cheque there.

"My understanding was that it escalated rapidly," she said.

"He might have been feeling rather anxious, he was just released from prison, he was coming in to get a service from us.

"The number one priority for us is actually safety of staff, our other clients and the guards."

Mako has now been barred from all Work and Income offices in Wellington for two years, which is rare.

Ministry of Social Development figures show there were 3958 security incidents classed as moderate or higher in 2017.

That same year, the number of incidents at Work and Income offices referred to police totalled 865.

However, in the year 2017 till November, only 341 people were trespassed from their offices.

Mako's brother William was with him that day and said what played out afterwards with the police was over the top.

"It was a volatile situation," he said.

"They wanted to put handcuffs on him and Jamie sort of refused ... they were dead set on putting them on him.

"If I wasn't there, because I got out and had a few words, things would have got real ugly.

"It could have been handled differently."

Police said officers responded after Work and Income told them a man had assaulted a security guard and could be heading to Upper Hutt.

Mako said the whole thing has been "catastrophised."

He wrote an apology letter to the security guard and when he appeared in court last week, he got a suspended sentence.

That means any sentence for assault will only be imposed if he reoffends within six months.

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