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Minister goes on trip during prisons crisis

Simon Power National Party Law & Order Spokesman

26 January 2006

Minister goes on trip during prisons crisis

Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor should not be tripping overseas when there is an urgent crisis to deal with at home, says National's Law & Order spokesman, Simon Power.

He is commenting on a report today that Mr O'Connor is to go on a trip to visit prisons in Britain.

"That trip can be done at any time but the prisons crisis cannot wait. There are some very urgent problems to attend to at home, and he should not be off junketing around the world while they remain.

"Over the past two or three months a number of serious issues have arisen over the way Corrections and its officials have conducted various matters, and dealing with those should be at the very top of Damien O'Connor's list, not some information-gathering trip overseas.

"I am sure the public agrees."

The issues include:
* The over-spend on construction of regional prisons.

* Overcrowding, including housing of prisoners in vans and police and court cells, and a Corrections report that predicts problems through till 2011.

* Security concerns, including 'design faults' at Ngawha Prison, escapes from Rimutaka and Christchurch prisons, and implications for other prisons.

* Staff morale, including a vote of 'no confidence' in management by guards at Manawatu Prison

* Staffing issues, including recruitment problems, the suggestion of criminals being employed as guards, and stand-downs and dismissals

* Operational problems, including issues surrounding non-compliance with parole, contraband and cellphones in prisons

"That is a list of serious proportions. These issues go to the very heart of Corrections and its mission - a mission it is failing to complete," says Mr Power.

"Instead of sending Damien O'Connor overseas, Helen Clark should be making sure he stays home to sort out the mess."

ENDS

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