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Swain opens new Northland corrections facility

8 March 2005

Swain opens new Northland corrections facility

Corrections Minister Paul Swain today opened the 350-bed Northland Region Corrections Facility (NCRF) – the first of four new prisons that will add more than 1600 beds to the country's prison capacity.

Te Tai Tokerau MP Dover Samuels and Associate Corrections Minister Mita Ririnui also attended today’s opening.

Mr Swain said the $133 million facility was a significant step forward in managing increasing inmate numbers due to the government's tougher stance on crime.

"The Corrections system must do two things. It must keep the community safe by incarcerating people as a result of their offending.

"Inmate numbers are increasing because this government has got tough on crime following the 1999 law and order referendum. Changes to the bail, parole and sentencing laws have led to projections that inmate numbers will increase 15 per cent – 1000 inmates – over the next five years."

NRCF and the other three new prisons will add more than 1600 beds to the country's prison capacity by 2007. The other new prisons are: Auckland women's – opening 2006 Otago – opening 2007 Springhill – opening 2007.

In addition the government approved funding for another 493 beds at several prisons that will be on stream within 12 months.

"However, locking more people up is not the only answer in the long-term. The second objective of the Corrections system is to reduce reoffending,” Mr Swain said.

“Approximately 25 per cent of inmates return to prison within a year of release. This is ridiculous. If we can lower this rate to 20 per cent, that equates to approximately 350 fewer inmates returning to prison – the size of NRCF.

"I expect NCRF - a modern, purpose built facility - to lead the way in successfully rehabilitating and reintegrating inmates," Mr Swain said.

The government is working on a plan to give inmates formal training for jobs before they are released. Under the plan, NRCF will have a dedicated staff member responsible for coordinating reintegration services for inmates who are one year from their release date or parole hearing. Inmates will be offered industry-approved and accredited training.

“Rick Barker, the Associate Minister of Social Development and Employment, and I will be making an announcement on the detail of the plan in due course,” Mr Swain said.

About 50 per cent of the 231 Corrections staff needed for NRCF will come from Northland and the facility will continue to directly contribute to the region's economy. Staff salaries alone are expected to exceed $10 million.

Mr Samuels thanked Ngati Rangi for their ongoing support and leadership throughout what has been at times, a difficult project.

"Ngati Rangi as kaitiaki, has been involved since the beginning of the project. Ngati Rangi Development Society and the department have forged a partnership, which will continue throughout the life of the facility.

"This will greatly enhance NCRF's rehabilitation and reintegration programmes and increase the likelihood of inmates successfully settling back into the community after their release, " Mr Samuels said.

Mr Ririnui said, as Associate Corrections Minister, he would be focusing on ways to lower the number of Maori prisoners.

“Currently, 50 per cent of inmates are Maori – this is not acceptable and has to change. Facilities such as NRCF can help address this issue.”

Mr Swain thanked the wider Northland community, contractor Mainzeal, subcontractors and the Corrections Department for seeing the construction stage of the project through to completion.

ENDS


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