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Labour slack on prison officer safety

Simon Power MP
National Party Justice & Corrections Spokesman

18 September 2008

Labour slack on prison officer safety

The Labour Government has not done enough to enhance the safety of prison officers, says National’s Justice & Corrections spokesman, Simon Power.

He is commenting after two guards were beaten by prisoners at Rimutaka Prison and had to be treated in hospital. One was attacked by five prisoners, who dragged him into a laundry and beat him, and the other was assaulted when he went to his assistance.

“This sort of thing is becoming all too prevalent in our prisons.

“By my count this is the eighth attack on guards since May. Injuries have included broken skulls, face and eye injuries, and stab wounds.

“The shame is that many of those guards did not have to be injured if Labour had stopped talking about it and actually done something.

“My inquiries show that the Government started to do something but then stopped.”

Mr Power is releasing answers to parliamentary questions which show that in November 2005, a working party convened by the Corrections Department recommended establishing a team to consider issues relating to the safety of prison guards.

“But nothing happened until July 2008, when Corrections started a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) review.

“That’s two years and nine months later, when there have been eight attacks in just four months this year.

“I note calls by the Corrections Association for guards to be issued with stab-resistant vests, and that the department says it is finally considering them.

“It does seem odd that this Labour Government can issue Fisheries Officers with vests, but not prison guards – at a time when violent crime has increased by 43% in the past nine years and our prisons are more violent than ever.

“Perhaps Corrections Minister Phil Goff should stop interfering in the Police and Justice portfolios over gangs and concentrate on his own job.

“It seems that after nine years and six Corrections Ministers, Labour still can’t get it right.”

Attachment: Answers to parliamentary questions

ENDS

Answers to parliamentary questions – prison officer security

7933 (2008). Simon Power to the Minister of State Services (04 Sep 2008): Further to his response to question for written answer 7532(2008), has the State Services Commission ever recommended such a review; if so, when?
Hon David Parker (Minister of State Services) replied: The State Services Commission was represented on a Recruitment and Retention Working Party convened by the Department of Corrections. In November 2005, the Working Party recommended establishing a project team to consider issues relating to the safety and physical security of Corrections Officers in the discharge of their duties.

7532 (2008). Simon Power to the Minister of State Services (18 Aug 2008): Has the State Services Commission undertaken a review of prison officer security; if so, what progress has been made?
Hon David Parker (Minister of State Services) replied: The State Services Commission has not undertaken a review of prison officer security.

7533 (2008). Simon Power to the Minister of Corrections (18 Aug 2008): Has his department undertaken a review of prison officer security; if so, when did this commence?
Hon Phil Goff (Minister of Corrections) replied: The Department is investigating Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) currently used in similar correctional jurisdictions to New Zealand. The review of PPE commenced in July 2008.

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