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Significant progress on managing prison muster

Significant progress on managing prison muster

Significant progress is being made in the management of higher than expected prisoner numbers, Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor said.

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Significant progress is being made in the management of higher than expected prisoner numbers, Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor said today.

The Corrections Department has reached agreement with prison officer unions to increase capacity at most prisons through additional emergency beds, Mr O'Connor said.

The agreement means 180 additional prison beds are available immediately with a further 90-100 beds able to be accessed by the end of February. This will result in fewer prisoners having to be held in police and court cells.

"The successful negotiations are a significant step. It will help the Corrections Department manage the prison muster. I thank CANZ (the Corrections Association) and the PSA (Public Service Association) for their cooperation. It has been good to see the Department and unions effectively working together to address this issue.

"Successful management of this issue is due to the continued hard work and effort of all staff in Prisons and the Police and the inter-agency co-operation."

Each prison site has a normal operating capacity but with the agreement of the unions extra beds can be accessed for contingency purposes.

Corrections has also made good progress with its build programme during 2005, he said

The nearly 500 new beds approved by the Cabinet last year, on top of the regional prisons building programme, are all due to be occupied by March.

The Northland Region Corrections Facility (NRCF), which received its first prisoners in April, reached its initial operating capacity of 350 in October.

Three new corrections facilities are also being constructed: the Auckland Region Women's Corrections Facility will open this year, followed by the Otago Region Corrections Facility and the Spring Hill Corrections Facility in 2007.

In total, more than 2000 new prison beds will be added to the prison system by mid-2007.

Despite the progress, Mr O'Connor sounded a note of caution over the rate of growth of prisoner numbers.

"Continuously building new prisons is an expensive business and is not the best option in the long term. As a country we must all continue to direct our energy towards lowering crime and working to rehabilitate people already in the prison system."

The muster peaked at the end of November at 7592 prisoners and is now around 7398.

ENDS

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