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Budget 2006: All talk no action on prison work

Simon Power
National Party Law & Order Spokesman

21 May 2006

Budget 2006: All talk no action on prison work schemes

The pre-Budget announcement of a new prisoner employment strategy has not been backed up in the Budget, says National’s Law and Order spokesman, Simon Power.

“If Damien O’Connor and the Corrections Department had been more prudent with spending on prisons construction they would have been able to announce more money for prisoner employment.

“I said the employment strategy was a load of waffle when it was announced, and it turns out I was right.”

Funding for prisoner employment increases by 1%, or $336,000, from $33.7 million in the last financial year to $34 million in the coming year, but this increase is not for new initiatives. And the overall trend since Labour took office has been to cut funding for prisoner employment by more than a quarter – from $46.5 million in 2001/02.

Mr Power says the effect of this can be seen in:

· The number of inmates on work schemes plummeting to one in five.
· Prisoners working an average 12.9 hours a week compared with 18.1 in 2002.
The number of hours of work by prisoners on Corrections Inmate Employment dropping 15% since 2002.
The hours of employment in prison market gardens cut by 75%.
The average number of prisoners employed in gardens cut to 30.
Up to 100 prisoners allowed to refuse to work.

“For all his talk about reducing inmate numbers, Damien O’Connor has clearly opted for the quick-fix solution of letting them out of jail rather than diverting more money into rehabilitation so they don’t re-offend and return.

“Perhaps if his department was more careful with its prisons construction budget – which has blown out by $490 million – they would have more money to spend on rehabilitation.

“Even a tiny fraction of that overspend would be enough to fund some effective rehabilitation and work schemes.”


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