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Cooperative approach to managing prisoner numbers

25 May 2005

Cooperative approach to managing prisoner numbers

Department of Corrections Chief Executive Barry Matthews says the number of prisoners exceeds the number of beds currently available in the country’s prisons, putting pressure on prisons and Police cells.

“We have been working closely with Police and the Ministry of Justice to manage the forecast increase in prisoner numbers, and we are grateful for their cooperation,” says Mr Matthews.

Corrections has a Memorandum of Understanding with the New Zealand Police to use some of its cells to accommodate remand prisoners who can’t be accommodated at a local prison, and has made use of this arrangement on a number of occasions in the past.

“We understand the pressure it places on frontline police, just as it does on corrections officers,” he says.

Under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Justice, Corrections is using court cells in some centres to accommodate sentenced prisoners under the supervision of experienced corrections officers.

Mr Matthews says he expects the need to use police and court cells to reduce about September/October this year, as the number of prison beds aligns with the forecast prisoner numbers.

Late last year, the Government approved funding of $125 million for 493 additional prison beds. The first 40 beds came into service during April 2005 and 300 beds will come into service progressively through to October 2005. Construction of the final 150 beds will be completed in April 2006.

The new 350-bed Northland Region Corrections Facility began accepting prisoners in April and three further corrections facilities will open over the next two years. The 286-bed Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility is due to open in early 2006, followed by the 650-bed Spring Hill Corrections Facility and the 335-bed Otago Region Corrections Facility, both due to open in 2007. In total, the new facilities will add more than 1600 beds to the prison system at a cost of $700 million.

“Construction of the additional 493 beds is well on track, and it’s our expectation that the current pressure on the prison system will ease later in the year when 340 of these beds will available for use.”

ENDS

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