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Prison death reflects Govt failure: Labour

Labour
2000 web siteThe death of a schizophrenic man, Marc Maurice, in Auckland's Mt Eden Prison will not be the last of such incidents unless the Government moves quickly to improve facilities for treating mental patients in state institutions, says Labour justice spokesperson Phil Goff.

In the morning on the day of his death an assessment indicated Mr Maurice was seriously unwell mentally and that he should be sent to hospital. He was not sent because of a lack of beds at Auckland's Mason Clinic.

"The Clinic has faced a huge increase in its case load from prisons in the last five years, and the Government must take responsibility for not resourcing it to properly deal with that increased pressure" Mr Goff said.

"The clinic has only 60 beds for a population of over a million people in Auckland. Pressure from the prisons has risen hugely but at the same time there has been no substantial extra resources provided to deal with such referrals.

"Ten years ago the clinic was getting between one and five referrals from prisons. This year it is expecting between 80 and 90 referrals.

"The Mason Clinic is trying to cater for an 18-fold increase in prison referrals without a proportionate increase in resources. The prison muster itself is growing yet the Government has repeatedly ignored the fact that this puts more and more pressure on the Mason Clinic.

"Keeping mentally ill people in prison not only risks the inmate but risks the well-being of prison staff as well. Prisons can't cope, they are not resourced and staff aren't trained to deal with demands of the mentally ill.

"The proper place for these people is not prison, but a clinic such as the Mason Clinic.

"However the clinic has a continual waiting list for four or five people, it has an occupancy rate of 110 per cent. It is always over full. Every unit in the country is full.

"The Government has ignored the pleas of the Mason Clinic for the assistance it needs to adequately cope with demand for its service. That means the death of Mark Maurice is likely to be the tip of the iceberg," Mr Goff said.

Mr Goff raised the issue in Parliament today asking the Government to take responsibility for ignoring the warnings that the Mason Clinic is chronically under-funded and unable to cope with inmates who need to be admitted.

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