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Prison population already up to 2011 level

Simon Power MP
National Party Justice & Corrections Spokesman

7 December 2007

Prison population already up to 2011 level

The Corrections Department has confirmed that the prison population is out of control and has reached crisis level, says National’s Justice & Corrections spokesman, Simon Power.

“The department’s briefing to incoming Minister Phil Goff has confirmed that the prison muster peaked at 8,457 in September – just 16 short of the 8,473 projected for September 2011 and 7% above the forecast released in July.

“This is most concerning, and confirms National’s earlier suspicions that projections were so wide of the mark that Corrections will have trouble handling the muster.

“This raises the spectre of prisoners being again housed in police and court cells, in vans on streets, and using rugby clubroom showers, as happened in 2005.

“The briefing says that among the reasons for the growth in the prisoner population are that ‘violent crime has increased steadily’, and that ‘the average length of time spent on remand has also increased’.

“And it is clear that Labour’s Effective Interventions programme is not working.

“An update on the implementation of Effective Interventions, which was put to Cabinet in October, admitted that electronic bail had ‘not so far produced the bed savings anticipated’ of 120 a year.

“In fact, according to the Corrections Department’s response to financial review questions, electronic bail has saved only 21 beds.

“The briefing to the Minister also says the growth in the muster ‘has placed strains on the department's operations, facilities, and on the staff who manage offenders.’

“That’s of concern, and we can only hope it will not lead to more of the riots we saw earlier this year.

“Corrections has previously admitted it may have to build new prisons, with one of its general managers saying in October that ‘basically we have no spare capacity’.

“This problem is of Labour’s own making. They failed miserably to get on top of violent crime, particularly youth crime, which continues to run almost unchecked.

“This is exactly what the Ombudsman was talking about in his report this week when he recommended an inquiry into the criminal justice system.

“Things have got worse, not better, after eight years of a Labour Government.”

ENDS

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