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Out With The Old, In With The New

New Zealand's old nineteenth century prisons are headed for closure and will be replaced with secure, modern facilities better suited to safety and reducing re-offending, Minister of Corrections Matt Robson announced today.

"A new era in the history of prisons in New Zealand is beginning."

He was announcing the renewal of the stalled process for site selection for a 650-bed male prison in South Auckland, which was put on hold last year.

"Since then I have decided that Mt Eden women's prison must close. We need appropriate facilities for female offenders and we need to ensure that we don't have a muster problem like the one we faced a few months ago.

"For that reason we are now looking for two sites in the Auckland region.

"We will also be closing Dunedin's 19th century jail and replacing it with something suitable for the 21st century. This will mean that Otago inmates can remain in their home region to serve their sentences.

"Regional facilities are the way of the future. I want to put a stop to the large number of Auckland women who are sent around the country to serve their sentences. Also 11% of inmates (about 600 people) are from the South Auckland area, and yet we have no facilities here.

"International research has shown that building facilities close to inmate's families helps with rehabilitation and re-integration back into the community, which in turn reduces re-offending.

"I have asked my Department to look at how we can close Mt Eden men's prison. We have to make sure that when we close it we have facilities in place to pick up the shortfall.

"There will also be a cost involved. I have asked my Department to come up with a full report on Mt Eden as soon as possible so that I can take it to Cabinet.

"It is not a case of if we close Mt Eden, but when. However the muster and financial problems involved have to be faced squarely by government and the public.

The Department of Corrections aims to identify a final selection of sites for the new Auckland prisons by February 2001. Both facilities should be open by 2003.

"Consultation with the community will be open and fair. Local people have waited a long time to get a clear picture of what the future holds. I would like to see a public debate, not just in Auckland, but across New Zealand, on where people think prisons should be built.
Work on finding a site for the new Dunedin prison will start later this year.

"We need secure, effective facilities to house serious offenders, and I want to make sure we have some of the best in the world. At the same time I am presently setting up a Taskforce to look at ways of reducing the numbers in prisons.

"For less serious offences there may be better alternatives to prison. I want prisons to do what they do best, which is keep dangerous offenders away from the community, while focusing on ways to reduce re-offending.

"I will be announcing the terms of reference for the Taskforce shortly," said Matt Robson.

Ends

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