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Nandor: Government's prison priorities wrong

13 February, 2004

Nandor: Government's prison priorities wrong

Green MP Nandor Tanczos today called on the government to back off its plans to increase the prison population by 20 per cent, saying the goal should be to keep people out of prison.

Nandor, the Green Justice spokesperson, questioned the government's commitment to a fair and just society when it proudly predicted a 20 per cent increase in the prison population while systematically closing down dozens of schools.

"Instead of building four new prisons at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, plus annual running costs of around $60,000 per head, the government should be looking at how to reduce the numbers of people going to prison," said Nandor.

"Over half of the prison population are in there for non-violent offences, which can largely be dealt with outside the walls of a cellblock.

"I was appalled to hear Justice Minister Phil Goff boasting in parliament that the prison population was going to increase by 20 per cent. New Zealand already has the second highest rate of imprisonment in the world, after the USA. Locking people in cells is not what we want to lead the world in," he said.

Nandor said that the government's campaign to close many rural schools, seriously harming small communities in the process, was one way to fuel the prison population increase.

"The government seems to have an open chequebook for prisons but not for education," said Nandor.

"Ngati Hine is fighting to keep its local school, at the same time as being forced to accept a prison. Is the University of Crime the only education the government has in mind for these people?" he asked.

ENDS

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