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Overflowing prisons set to explode

Simon Power MP
National Party Justice & Corrections Spokesman

2 May 2007

Overflowing prisons set to explode

New Zealand’s prison system is five months from a potentially disastrous overcrowding problem, says National’s Justice & Corrections spokesman, Simon Power.

“The Government’s failure to pass legislation early enough to help ease pressure on our already bulging prisons is to blame for this very concerning possibility.”

He is releasing Justice Ministry documents from last year, which show that proposed changes to home detention, community-based sentences, sentencing guidelines and parole reforms which are contained in the Criminal Justice Reform Bill (formerly the Justice Remedial Matters Amendment Bill) are behind schedule.

“The introduction of a Sentencing Council, designed to take the pressure off the Government on prisoner numbers and sentencing outcomes, will fail to hide the Minister’s inadequacies in this area.”

In the documents, officials tell Minister Mark Burton:

- The bill must be passed ‘no later than April 2007 … so the legislative changes can help deal with the predicted September 2007 seasonal peak in the prison population’.

- ‘Delaying this legislation, or the other key implementation steps, will result in further substantial pressure on prisons.’

- ‘Any material delay, particularly with legislation for home detention, will have consequences for the prison building programme.’

- ‘If legislative changes are delayed or deferred, the Department of Corrections could not rely on achieving the reduced bed numbers and could need to re-visit the prison build options.’

“Mark Burton has dropped the ball again.

“This bill isn’t due to be reported back from select committee until June, and even then it still has to pass through several more readings before it becomes law.

“This could lead to further issues caused by overcrowding, including increasing violence, problems controlling the smuggling of contraband, and even law suits from complaining prisoners.

“Instead, come September we are likely to see more prisoners held in police cells and being flown around the country Con Air-style.

“How has Mark Burton managed to muck this up when Labour has hardly had an overwhelming legislative agenda?

“He must tell the public how he is going to prevent chaos in September – or will Helen Clark have to step in again?”

ENDS

For copy of pages from overview of Effective Interventions, copy this address to your browser: http://www.national.org.nz/files/power_interventions.pdf

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