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Labour in a total muddle over prisons

Simon Power National Party Law & Order Spokesman

7 March 2006

Labour in a total muddle over prisons

It is time the Government admitted it has no idea what is happening to prisoner numbers, and that they could blow out well beyond forecasts, says National's Law & Order spokesman, Simon Power.

He is commenting on latest prison population forecasts.

"The Ministry of Justice is consistently wrong with its muster forecasts, and I suspect this latest one will be no different. Already the 2004 forecast has been blown out of the water, so I wonder how reliable this one will be.

"In 2004 they were forecasting an increase of 10% between 2005/06 and 2009/10. One year later that forecast increase had leapt to 17%. That is a huge change in one year.

"Basically, they have no idea and it's not helping the Department of Corrections.

"Even this report's recommendations show what a muddle the Government is in. It says that of the four forecast scenarios, it prefers Scenario 4, but 'Nevertheless the other scenarios are also possible and could happen. For this reason, we have not discarded the other scenarios.'

"The constructions budget blowout in Corrections has forced Labour into one of the great policy U-turns," says Mr Power.

"We have a minister who is talking about going soft on criminals and letting 30% of them out, in direct contrast to what the then Ministers of Corrections and Justice were trying to claim last year: that they were hard on crime and that their tougher sentencing was leading to more people in prison.

"Because of budget blowouts they want to open the gates. You can't let people out of prison just because you can't manage a budget.

"Damien O'Connor, Mark Burton and Helen Clark want to let thieves, repeat drink-drivers, some people convicted of sex crimes and assault, fraudsters, and those who breach protection orders back on to the street.

"But before we even consider this we have to make sure the rehabilitation, education and drug programmes work, and that community service and home detention are doing what they are designed to do.

"The private sector has much to offer. There is no excuse for not letting them in to manage our prisons. At the very least they would not blow out a $400 million budget to $890 million," says Mr Power.


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