List of correctional facilities in New Zealand

List of correctional facilities in New Zealand
  • 1 Northern Region
    • 1.1 Northland Region Corrections Facility (Ngawha)
    • 1.2 Auckland Prison (Paremoremo)
    • 1.3 Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility (ARWCF)
    • 1.4 Mount Eden Corrections Facility
    • 1.5 Spring Hill Corrections Facility
  • 2 Central region
    • 2.1 Waikeria Prison
    • 2.2 Tongariro/Rangipo Prison
    • 2.3 New Plymouth Prison (closed)
    • 2.4 Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison
    • 2.5 Wanganui Prison
    • 2.6 Manawatu Prison
  • 3 Southern Region
    • 3.1 Rimutaka Prison
    • 3.2 Arohata Women’s Prison
    • 3.3 Wellington Prison (now closed)[citation needed]
    • 3.4 Christchurch Prison
    • 3.5 Christchurch Women’s Prison
    • 3.6 Rolleston Prison
    • 3.7 Otago Corrections Facility (OCF)
    • 3.8 Invercargill Prison
  • 4 Proposed new men’s prison at Wiri in Manukau

Northern Region

Northland Region Corrections Facility (Ngawha)

Northland Region Corrections Facility is located 5 km northeast of the town of Kaikohe and is colloquially known as Ngawha – after the local area. Maori in Northland tried to persuade the Corrections Department not to upset a local taniwha by building the prison on thermal land. They were unsuccessful and the facility opened in 2005. Following completion, the foundations proved to be unstable. In 2007, the Government admitted the prison was sinking into the ground and required repairs. It ended up costing $137 million, which was $100 million more than the original project estimate.[1]

The prison accommodates up to 366 prisoners with security classifications ranging from low to high-medium and employs 180 staff.[2]

Auckland Prison (Paremoremo)

Auckland Prison is located on Paremoremo Rd on Auckland’s North Shore – hence the name Paremoremo Prison.[3] It contains New Zealand’s only specialist maximum-security prison unit and houses some of the most violent criminals in the country. The prison opened in 1968 and contains up to 681 prisoners though in 2010, only about 90 were classified as maximum security.[3] It has a staff of 225. The first female corrections officers started working at the prison in 1987 and women now make up 14% of staff.[4]

Paremoremo has a 60-bed treatment unit for child sex offenders called Te Piriti and a Special Needs Unit. In November 2011, a new Drug Treatment Unit (DTU) was established at the prison with clinical staff coming from Odyssey House. The DTU houses up to 48 prisoners at a time and provides an intensive 12-week programme targeted at prisoners serving sentences of between four and twelve months.[5]

Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility (ARWCF)

The Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility is in the Wiri suburb of Manukau City. The site is 47 ha in size, of which only 13 ha are currently covered by the prison, leaving considerable room for expansion.[6] With so much space available, in 2011 it became the proposed site for a new $900 million 960-bed men’s prison which is due to be built by 2015 and operated by British conglomerate Serco.[7] This will make the suburb of Wiri the country’s biggest prison precinct.[8]

The women’s prison opened in 2006 and was the second of four new prisons constructed as part of the Department’s Regional Prisons Development Project. The original plan was for only 150 beds but a 20 per cent hike in the number of women being sent to prison led to a significant expansion.[9] Despite the increase, women still make up only 6% of the prison population.[10] ARWCF now houses up to 456 prisoners and as a result of the increase, the cost blew out from an estimated $58 million to $158 million.[11]

ARWCF is the first purpose-built women’s prison in New Zealand.[12] It has one high security Management Unit with 24 beds, two high-medium security units, one for sentenced and one for remand prisoners, each with 90 beds and a 32-bed assessment unit. Many cells can accommodate two prisoners through double bunking.[13] Until it was built, female prisoners have mostly had to serve their sentences at women’s prisons in Wellington and Christchurch.[14]

The prison has a specialist unit for mothers with babies – known as the baby bonding unit.[15] Prisoners with babies aged under nine months being cared for in the community are permitted daily visits in secure, purpose-built facilities where they can feed and bond with their child. These facilities replicate a domestic lounge setting with a bathroom, kitchenette and sleeping room for the baby. There is also an external courtyard. This allows a mother to spend up to 12 hours a day with her baby. It also allows the baby to bond with the caregiver raising the child while the mother serves her sentence.

The prison also provides the Kowhiritanga (‘Making Choices’) Programme. This rehabilitation programme is designed to address the particular needs of female prisoners – many of whom have suffered sexual abuse during childhood and in their current relationships. Auckland University sociologist Dr Tracey McIntosh, says virtually all Maori women in prisons have been physically or sexually abused – and were excluded from school by the age of 13.[16] The Making Choices programme uses cognitive-behavioural therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy, group psychotherapy, recreational psychology and a narrative approach to therapy.[15]

In 2010 it was reported that eight prisoners at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility are training dogs as part of the Puppies in Prison programme. The puppies are being trained by low security prisoners to help people in the community living with disabilities. The puppies help prepare the prisoners for life outside prison as well as learning around 90 tasks to help their future owners. They live with the women in self care units at the prison and even attend rehabilitation and education programmes with them.[17] The puppies spend a year with the prisoners, before returning to the community for advanced training.[18]

Mount Eden Corrections Facility


There has been a prison on the Mount Eden site in Auckland since 1856. The first building was made of timber and was known as the Stockade. A new stone building opened in 1865 although the stone wall that surrounds the prison was not finished until the mid-1870s – using prison labour. The Victorian stone building with its high towers and thick stone perimeter wall is still a recognisable Auckland landmark.[19]

Even as Mt Eden Prison was being built, calls were made for it to be closed. Changing views about prison incarceration during the early 1900s led the then Minister of Justice to declare the facility to be obsolete. By 1945 public calls were being made for the prison to be demolished but demolition plans were postponed in 1953 due to a shortage of funds. In 1965 a prison-wide riot broke out following a failed mass breakout attempt. Prisoners lit fires that quickly spread along the roof, fuelled with fat, oil, furniture and prisoners’ personal effects. By the time prisoners surrendered 34 hours later, little remained of the original prison other than its exterior stone shell. The kitchen, the chapel, the watch house and 61 cells were destroyed and the prison roof suffered extensive damage. Due to a shortage of alternative accommodation, the prison was gradually rebuilt as a temporary measure, but much of it was not restored to its original condition.[19]

The old Mount Eden Prison used to hold about 420 prisoners and was squalid, substandard and unsafe. In 2004 the Department acknowledged the prison “falls well-short of the basic requirements for a modern corrections facility”;[20] a New Zealand Herald editorial described it as an “antiquated pile beyond redemption as a suitable place to incarcerate humans”.[21] The 120 year old prison was closed in 2011. Although it no longer houses inmates, the building has a ‘category one’ classification from the New Zealand Historic Places Trust due to its historical significance and architectural quality.[22] The building was to be restored and converted for staff and administration use for the new prison completed on the same site.


The $40 million Auckland Central Remand Prison (ACRP), housing about 250 remand inmates, opened in July 2000, next to the old prison.[23] It became the main reception prison for newly remanded male prisoners in the Auckland region. ACRP was the first prison in New Zealand to be administered by a private company. It was run by an Australian company, GEO Group. Five years later (2005), ACRP was returned to state operation by a Labour government.[24]

A major project to redevelop the site and create another facility began in 2008. New accommodation blocks and support facilities were constructed at a cost of $216 million.[25] The prison was renamed the Mt Eden Corrections Facility (MECF) and now holds 966 prisoners. It opened on 30 March 2011. [26]

In May 2010, the National Government decided that the prison would be privatised once again and British conglomerate, Serco, was awarded the contract.[27]

Spring Hill Corrections Facility

Spring Hill Corrections Facility is in the countryside between Meremere and Te Kauwhata, in the Waikato. It opened in 2007 and was the last of four new facilities built as part of the Regional Prisons Development Project. It accommodates up to 1,018 male prisoners with low to high-medium security classifications.[28] In the course of construction, the cost of the prison escalated to $380.3 million (at $600,000 a bed),[29] $97.7 million over its original estimate.[30]

The Department made the unusual step of spending $7.5 million buying and shipping earthmoving equipment from overseas to complete the prison. It says it was caught short by the national building boom and was unable to find the equipment in New Zealand. The Department bought eleven 40-tonne all-terrain dump trucks from Scotland, five compactors from America and France and two excavators from South Korea.[31] When Otago’s new Milton prison also cost $43.1 million more than the Department had forecast, Corrections Minister Damien O’Connor subsequently asked Treasury and the State Services Commission (SSC) to carry out an independent review of prison cost blowouts.[30]

Springhill has New Zealand’s only Pacific Focus Unit, which provides an environment where prisoners of Pacific ethnicity with a high risk of re-offending are encouraged to address their offending behaviours. Spring Hill also has a combined drug treatment and special treatment unit called Puna Tatari. The special treatment unit provides treatment for serious offenders with a high risk of re-offending who have been convicted of at least one violent offence.[citation needed]

Spring Hill was also the scene of the manslaughter of prison officer Jason Palmer. This was the first death of a New Zealand prison officer on active duty.[32]

Central region

Waikeria Prison

Waikeria Prison is located 16 kilometres south of Te Awamutu, in the Waikato region. It was built in 1911 and held 1031 prisoners and employed 480 staff. It used to be New Zealand’s largest prison. However in 2012, the Government announced that some older prisons would close including units at Waikeria.[33]

The prison includes several specialist units. It has one of the five Māori Focus Units in New Zealand prisons. The Māori Focus Units aim to bring about positive changes in offenders’ thinking and behaviour through the practice of Māori values and disciplines, and specialist Māori programmes. Waikeria also has a Drug Treatment Unit for prisoners with drug or alcohol problems, a Youth Unit for prisoners under 18 and a Special Treatment Unit (Karaka Special Treatment Unit) which is a 40-bed treatment unit for men who have repeatedly committed serious crimes and are considered to have a high risk of re-offending.[34]

Because Waikeria Prison is a large site, the level of physical security varies between different units. The minimum security areas of the prison have fewer physical security feature because minimum security prisoners have been assessed as a minimal risk to the public. Higher security units are surrounded by a highly secure perimeter fence equipped with lighting, surveillance and detection equipment.[35]

Tongariro/Rangipo Prison

Tongariro/Rangipo Prison began as a prison camp called Hautu in Turangi in 1922. The prison site was established in 1926, and became a separate entity in 1977.[36] The prison is on a large site of more than 8,000 hectares off the Desert Road near Turangi. Around 4200 hectares of this land is forested and 2400 hectares is farmed. The remaining 1840 hectares are roads, river reserves, wetlands and native forest. The prison holds about 600 prisoners classified as minimum to low-medium security and 251 staff. Given its size, the Department says it is not possible to surround the Tongariro/Rangipo Prison site with razor wire fencing but units within the prison grounds are said to be appropriately fenced.[37] In 1998, 204 cannabis plants, with an estimated street value of almost $1 million, were found growing at the prison – although the Department denies the crop was grown by prisoners.[38] In July 2011, a former Rangipo Prison guard Manu Stanley Jensen, was sentenced to 16 months in gaol after accepting a bribe to supply cannabis to a prisoner.[39]

Tongariro/Rangipo has one of the five Māori Focus Units in New Zealand prisons. The Māori Focus Units aim to bring about positive changes in offenders’ thinking and behaviour through the practice of Māori values and disciplines, and specialist Māori programmes. The prison also has a strong relationship with local iwi and a special relationship with the surrounding hapu – Ngati Turamakina, Ngāti Tūrangitukua, Ngati Rongomai and Ngati Hine. Representatives of the hapu meet bi-monthly with the Prison Manager.[36] In 2000, a 25-year-old prisoner Aupai Bruce Tohu drowned after the waka he was on capsized in choppy weather while taking part in a Maori cultural training course. Two years earlier, Rangipo prisoner Matthew Neave, aged 30, also drowned after parachuting into Lake Taupo.[40]

In 2001, the health and safety coordinator for the Corrections Association, Brian Davies, issued a report claiming that the use of buckets as toilets was unhygienic and disgusting both for prisoners and guards. The report said this and other issues were among urgent problems that need fixing in rundown prisons – and cited Rangipo prison as one of the worst offenders.[41] When Corrections Minister Anne Tolley announced prison closures in 2012, some units at Rangipo were included in this announcement.[42]

New Plymouth Prison (closed)

New Plymouth Prison used to hold up to 112 minimum to high-medium security prisoners and employed 65 staff. The prison also accommodated offenders on remand. The prison was originally an army hospital in the 1860s during the Taranaki land wars. The site was converted to a prison later that decade and has been in use ever since.[43] It is the oldest operational penal institution in New Zealand. In 2012, Corrections Minister, Anne Tolley announced it would be closed “because old prisons didn’t suit modern rehabilitation training and education methods.”[44] It closed in 2013.[citation needed]

Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison

Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison, originally called Mangaroa, is located near Hastings. It opened in October 1989, replacing the old Napier Prison, which closed in 1993. Mangaroa holds about 640 prisoners and has 325 staff.[45] Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison has one of the five Māori Focus Units in New Zealand prisons. The Māori Focus Units aim to bring about positive changes in offenders’ thinking and behaviour through the practice of Māori values and disciplines, and specialist Māori programmes. It has a Drug Treatment Unit for prisoners with drug or alcohol problems.

The prison also has one of New Zealand’s three Youth Units which accommodates prisoners under the age of 18 and prisoners aged 18–19 who are deemed to be vulnerable in the mainstream prison environment. The Department says youth prisoners are offered a range of psychological, educational and vocational training and claims it meets its obligations under the Education Act 1989 – which requires all under-16-year-olds to be in full-time education.[45] However, Judith Baragwanath, a Parole Board member and former teacher says 92% of teenage offenders in the Youth Units have a learning disability and tutors employed by the Department of Corrections to teach in the Youth Units are not subject to any accredited professional teaching standards. She also says the Youth Units have never been subject to scrutiny by the Education Review Office.[citation needed]

The Youth Unit was closed in 2011 after a disturbance by two 17-year-olds in which one of them threw boiling water over an officer, and stabbing the Officer. The inmates caused considerable damage and 11 months later, the unit was still not back in use and no decision had been made on when it would reopen.[46]

Wanganui Prison

Wanganui Prison, in Kaitoke, holds about 538 prisoners and employs 252 staff. The oldest part of the prison, the main Kaitoke Prison complex, was built in 1978, and Te Ohorere, a Self Care Unit, and Te Whakataa minimum security units opened in 2005. Self-care units allow prisoners to get accustomed to living in a house or flat environment within the prison fences; they are designed to give prisoners the opportunity to learn and practise the skills they will need to live independently after release.[47]

Wanganui Prison has one of the five Māori Focus Units in New Zealand prisons. The Māori Focus Units aim to bring about positive changes in offenders’ thinking and behaviour through the practice of Māori values and disciplines, and specialist Māori programmes.

Wanganui Prison also has a stand-alone 12-cell at-risk facility to deal with suicidal inmates. Only two prisons in New Zealand have units specifically designed for this purpose. The other is at Waikeria and houses up to 30 prisoners in 26 cells.[48]

Manawatu Prison

Manawatu Prison holds about 290 prisoners and employs 136 staff. It is located at Linton, south of Palmerston North. The prison began as the Manawatu Youth Institution in 1979 for young male prisoners motivated to make use of the institution’s educational, social development, trade training and community-based programmes. It became Manawatu Prison in 1985.[49]

Manawatu prison has a voluntary faith based unit known as the Alpha Unit. The Unit is based on the spiritual values of the Christian faiths and it provides a supportive environment committed to the Principles, Values and Attitudes programme. The programme is run by the prison chaplain and prisoners volunteer to reside in it.[50]

Southern Region

Rimutaka Prison

Rimutaka Prison is located in the suburb of Trentham, Upper Hutt. It is New Zealand’s largest prison, holding up to 1216 prisoners and employing about 570 staff. Originally called Wi Tako, the prison opened in 1919. It is on a large site at the end of Freyberg Road and the number of cells and prison units has grown substantially in recent years to accommodate rising prisoner numbers. In 2010, Rimutaka became the first prison in New Zealand to open a container-cell unit.[51] The cells are constructed from refurbished shipping containers and the unit houses up to 60 prisoners in a mix of single and double-bunked cells.

Rimutaka Prison includes several specialist rehabilitation units. It has one of the five Māori Focus Units in New Zealand prisons, a Drug Treatment Unit for prisoners with drug or alcohol problems, and a Faith-Based Unit which provides a programme for prisoners centred around the Christian faith.

Rimutaka also has a 30-bed special treatment unit for violent prisoners called Te Whare Manaakitanga. Prisoners in this unit are taught skills to enable them to live without using violence; this includes conflict resolution, the use of timeout, impulse control and how to challenge their own distorted thinking. The prisoners also learn to change their attitudes towards women.[51] Offenders have to be classified as having a high risk of re-offending in order to attend this programme.[citation needed]

Rimutaka prison opened the country’s first dementia unit in December 2012.[52] The Corrections Department said a “high dependency unit” will be created for some of the 120 inmates aged over 65 who struggle with daily tasks, such as showering themselves. Wellington lawyer Mary More, who represents a 75-year-old prisoner believes the unit is long overdue and said: “The Department of Corrections needs to recognise that the courts are sending more and more people to prison for longer … and we are going to have an aging prison population.”[53]

Arohata Women’s Prison


Arohata Women’s Prison.

Arohata Prison is one of New Zealand’s three women’s prisons and is located near Tawa, north of Wellington. The nameArohata means ‘the bridge’ in Maori and reflects the belief that the prison provides a bridge between past offending and a future in the community. The prison was built in 1944 and was originally a women’s borstal. It became a youth prison in 1981 and a women’s prison in 1987. It holds about 150 prisoners and employs 73 staff.[54]

The prison includes a Drug Treatment Unit for prisoners with drug or alcohol problems and is the only women’s prison that operates a DTU. Women from Christchurch or Auckland women’s prisons who have addictions have to move to Arohata prison to take part in the programme.[citation needed]

Arohata also runs the Kowhiritanga (‘Making Choices’) Rehabilitation Programme specifically for female prisoners many of whom have been exposed to sexual and psychological abuse during childhood and in their adult relationships. Most of the programme is based on cognitive-behavioural therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy, group psychotherapy, recreational psychology and a narrative approach to therapy.[citation needed]

Wellington Prison (now closed)

Wellington Prison, also known as Mount Crawford, used to hold about 120 prisoners and employed 35 custodial staff. It was built in 1927 next to the suburb of Miramar inWellington and replaced the original Terrace Gaol in central Wellington. The prison only accommodated prisoners who were on voluntary segregation – prisoners who have asked to be separated from the mainstream prison population.[55]

The Wellington prison was temporarily closed in June 2008 during a “seasonal prison population trough”, however it reopened in July 2009 when the national prison population increased once again.[56] In 2012, Corrections Minister, Anne Tolley announced it would be closed permanently “because the old prisons didn’t suit modern rehabilitation training and education methods.”[44]

Christchurch Prison

Christchurch Prison, also known as Paparua, is located near Paparua to the west of Christchurch. It was built in 1925 and accommodate about 930 prisoners.[57] The prison includes a Drug Treatment Unit for prisoners with drug and alcohol problems as well as a Youth Unit for prisoners under 18 years old.

In September 2010 and 2011, Christchurch was hit by two major earthquakes. The prison suffered no major damage from the first quake but about half of the 800 inmates were moved as a precaution after it affected the prison’s plumbing systems. Some were taken by bus to Otago Correctional Facility and others were flown to prisons in the North Island.[58] Those inmates left behind were required to put together ration packs and prepare meals for rescuers.[59]

After the second quake in February 2011, a decision was made to move prisoners from Christchurch’s Rolleston prison to Christchurch Men’s prison, emptying 320 beds to create accommodation for the influx of rescuers into the city.[60]

Christchurch Women’s Prison

Christchurch Women’s Prison is one of three female prisons in New Zealand. It is located near Paparua to the west of Christchurch and holds 138 prisoners and employs 70 staff. The prison opened in 1974 when prisoners and staff transferred to the site from Dunedin Prison and Christchurch Prison’s Women’s Division. The prison remains the only women’s prison in the South Island.[61]

The prison provides the Kowhiritanga (‘Making Choices’) rehabilitation programme designed to address the particular needs of female offenders – many of whom have suffered sexual abuse during childhood and in their current relationships.[16][15]

The prison has nine Self-Care Units where longer-serving prisoners may be eligible to spend time as they near release. These are residential-style units inside the prison that let prisoners get used to living in a flatting type environment and give prisoners an opportunity to learn and practise the skills they will need to live independently after release. The Living Skills Programme is also delivered in the Self-Care Units and some prisoners participate on the Release to Work programme.[61]

In 2011 a unit at the prison was upgraded allowing female prisoners to live with their babies for up to two years as part of a 2008 law change extending the time a baby can stay with a gaoled mother from nine months. The upgrade allows four mothers and their babies to live together.[62]

Rolleston Prison

Rolleston prison is located at Walkers Rd in Rolleston, south-west of Christchurch. It was originally established in 1958 as an army detention centre.[63] It was first used as a prison in 1986 when the new Corrective Training Centre was built called the Tawa unit.

The prison was extensively renovated in 1987 to increase capacity and in 1989 the 60 bed Kia Marama unit opened – one of only two such units in the country. The unit delivers group-based treatment within a therapeutic environment to child sex offenders. The programme helps prisoners look at their patterns of behaviour and identify high-risk situations. Evaluations have shown that the programme is very effective in reducing re-offending. In 1992 the 60 bed Kowhai unit opened and an additional two units have been completed since then. Rolleston now holds about 320 male prisoners and employs 93 staff.

Because Rolleston Prison contains prisoners assessed as being of minimal risk to the public, the level of physical security is lower than would be found at many other prisons. It does not have a perimeter fence. Instead, individual units have their own secure fencing and the prison has electronic security devices around the perimeter.[64] Older units at Rolleston are set to close as part of the Department’s decision to close down older prisons and build a new 960 bed prison for males at Wiri.[65]

Otago Corrections Facility (OCF)

Otago Corrections Facility is located near Milton. It opened in 2007 and was one of four new prisons that opened between 2005 and 2007.[66] OCF was intended to hold about 425 male prisoners and employ 201 staff. When double bunking was introduced at OCF in 2010, inmate numbers rose to 480.[67]

The prison provides three rehabilitation programmes. The Medium Intensity Rehabilitation Programme is designed for prisoners in the middle risk range – those not considered high risk but still enough of a risk to warrant rehabilitation. The Short Rehabilitation Programme is a brief rehabilitation programme aimed at a smaller number of prisoners who require rehabilitation but do not have enough time in their sentence to complete a longer programme. OCF also has a Drug Treatment Unit for prisoners with drug and alcohol problems.[68]

Invercargill Prison

Invercargill Prison, in Invercargill, holds about 165 prisoners. Built in 1910, the prison operated as a borstal until 1981. In 2012 a rehabilitation programme was introduced at Invercargill Prison. A decision was made to run the Medium Intensity Rehabilitation Programme after the Corrections Department recognised there was a sufficient number of prisoners in need of such a programme. Corrections rehabilitation and reintegration services regional manager Steve Berry said programme facilitators from the Otago Corrections Facility would travel from Dunedin four times a week for 13 weeks.[69]

Proposed new men’s prison at Wiri in Manukau

In 2010 Corrections Minister, Judith Collins said an additional 2270 prison beds would be needed by 2019 to cope with forecast growth in prisoner numbers and to replace aging existing prisons.[70] In response, the Government announced that the Department of Corrections proposed the establishment of a new men’s prison with 1060 beds on undeveloped land adjacent to the Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility at 20 Hautu Drive, Wiri, Manukau City.[71]

The Government intends that the new prison will be designed, built and operated under a public-private partnership (PPP). A custodial PPP is where a private sector consortium signs a 25-year contract with the Department of Corrections to design, build, maintain and operate the prison for the duration of the contract.

Environment Minister Nick Smith established a board of inquiry to fast-track the building of the new prison allowing it to bypass the usual resource consents process which is subject to appeals in the Environment Court.[72] After a three-week hearing in May 2011, the inquiry gave Corrections the go ahead to build the prison. A few months later, justice sector forecasts showed a drop in the projected prison population – for the first time ever.[73] Prime Minister John Key then commented that the new prison at Wiri may no longer be needed but also said it might still be built so that ‘older prisons may be retired’


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  75. Credit: Wikipedia
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