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Prison Blowout Reflects a Culture of Lock Up

Prison Blowout Reflects a Culture of Lock Up

Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader of the Maori Party
Wednesday 9 August 2006

The Maori Party today condemned the 'build more prisons, build 'em fast, and lock people up' mentality, as reflected in the report of the State Services Commissioner into the Cost Escalation in the regional prisons.

"Reading over the report made me extremely sad" said Dr Sharples, Corrections spokesperson for the Maori Party. "It's all there in black and white -there's been a massive 26% increase in the prison population in less than a decade. The prison population has shot up from original forecast of 6800 to the new figure of 8600".

"These are real people - with families, with children - and far too many of them are Maori" said Dr Sharples.

"It is somewhat of a bitter irony that on this day, World Indigenous People's Day, we are reminded of the consequences of the burgeoning prison growth".

"It is a grim reality, that although we are 15% of the New Zealand population, tangata whenua comprise 50% of the penal population; the disproportionate rate of incarceration being a feature of other indigenous populations across the globe".

"The report makes it clear that the construction costs of the two new prisons arose from rising bed numbers, the demand to build prisons faster (the procurement methodology), and a 'heated' construction market" said Dr Sharples.

"But we all know the real heat in this project, was the unseemly haste and political pressure to build more jails and perpetuate a culture of lock-up" said Dr Sharples.

"Although the Minister was talking about not building 'more jails' he forgot to mention that those he was currently building had got bigger, a clever bit of subterfuge" said Dr Sharples. "What has happened is not a blow-out - it is just a Minister omitting to tell us the real stories - his jails had increased in size. It was easier to make it look as if the 'bureaucrats' had mucked it all up".

"The consequences of this massive prison increase - are not just in budget blowouts. It has huge implications, socially, for thousands of families, tens of thousands of children; implications which extend far further than the $75,000* it costs to keep a person in jail each year".

"The Maori Party believes that the money should be better directed to the area of healing and restoration, to prevent people from ever going - or returning - to jail".

"In this light, I am pleased that the Corrections Chief Executive, Barry Matthews, is considering the model of rehabilitation I have put to him, which will make progress towards addressing recividivism" ended Dr Sharples.

ENDS

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