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Labour admits it got it wrong on contraband

Simon Power MP
National Party Justice & Corrections Spokesman

5 December 2007

Labour admits it got it wrong on contraband

Labour has finally admitted it had it wrong for years on contraband and corruption in prisons, says National’s Justice & Corrections spokesman, Simon Power.

“The Corrections Amendment Bill is a black and white admission that they had it wrong for many years.”

The bill is designed to crack down on drug use, illicit use of cellphones, enables the screening of mail, and adopts a zero tolerance to staff who pass contraband to prisoners.

“National has told them for years that there was a huge problem, but they brushed us off, saying staff corruption involved ‘a minority of staff’, and ‘probably five in the whole organisation’.

“And they tried to hide the true extent of the contraband problem because they were embarrassed.

“Previous Minister Damien O’Connor tried to say that in 2005/06 only 39 illegal items were seized in Auckland Men’s Prison, 45 in Christchurch Men’s, 12 in Rimutaka, and none in Mt Crawford and Dunedin.

“Not surprisingly, the Corrections Association said that was wrong, with president Beven Hanlon saying: ‘I would dispute those figures. They are not right by a long shot.’

“There were also cases of prisoners harassing people from behind bars, including one who was able to receive crime scene photographs of a man who had killed himself and then send them on to the man’s partner – all from a maximum security unit.

“And all the while, the number of prisoners testing positive for ‘P’ use was increasing steadily, from 35 in 2001 to 139 in 2006/07.

“Corrections’ own report in 2006 said their Identified Drug User Programme ‘provides little scope for prisoners identified as drug users to mitigate their actual demand for drugs’, and that ‘a significant amount of drug use in prisons goes undetected’.

“Corrections have deluded themselves all along, while the public has watched reports of crimes being committed from behind bars by prisoners using smuggled cellphones – like one prisoner who organised the smuggling of $1 million of ‘P’ from Thailand.

“This has been the usual story of denial from Corrections. But if there wasn’t a problem, why are they fixing it now?”

Attachment: question from Vote Corrections 2007/08

ENDS

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