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'Time to lift veil of secrecy over prisons,'

'Time to lift veil of secrecy over prisons,' says Minister

"We had the courage to lift the veil of secrecy that covered our mental institutions of the past. Now we must let New Zealanders see inside our prisons," Minister of Corrections Matt Robson said today.

He was speaking to the Regional Heads of Prisons Meeting today at Hawkes Bay Regional Prison. The RHPM is a five-day meeting of prison managers from around the Pacific. Representatives from 13 countries are attending. The key themes are professional staff training and development and the management of indigenous inmates.

Matt Robson wants to see more open days in prisons and more information to the public about what goes on behind bars.

He also signalled that further funding would be available for programmes in the prisons that target Maori offending.

"I am convinced that the best solutions to the problem of Maori offending will come from Maori. My job as Minister of Corrections is to hustle as hard as I can for the resources to fund Maori run programmes in our prisons.

"I know that the best way to make Maori offenders face up to the consequences of their actions is to make them realise, perhaps for the first time, that their crime is against their own lore, not just the law of the land."

Matt Robson also hinted at new initiatives geared towards victim's needs, both emotional and financial.

"It's important to keep reminding ourselves why we are doing this work. We do it because of one simple word: victims. When a crime is committed there are many victims: the direct victim, families of victims, the families of offenders and the community.

"That is why I am pushing hard in budget discussions now to increase funding for victims rights in the Courts and for further Restorative Justice projects where the victim is placed in the centre of the justice process."

He also referred to the importance of getting the best staff for the job.

"One bad apple can let down the whole workforce. It is vital that we build morale and commitment in our prison and probation workforce.

"We must make sure we have the training and the resources to support our staff. Most importantly we must involve staff and their Unions in the process of transforming prison culture and the prison workplace where a rot has set in.

"I intend to work more closely in the future with prison staff and their Unions. Our Corrections staff in New Zealand must not see themselves simply as the guardian of keys: they are on the front line of working towards community safety," said Matt Robson.

ends

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