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Changes to New Zealand Prisons

22 March 2012

Changes to New Zealand Prisons

The Chief Executive of the Department of Corrections, Ray Smith, has announced significant changes to New Zealand’s prison configuration that will see two prisons close, as well as significant investment in other parts of the prison system.

“The changes will raise the overall standards of the prisons, improve staff working conditions, increase public safety and give Corrections a strong platform from which to target re-offending rates”, says Mr Smith.

Wellington and New Plymouth prisons will close, as will some units in Arohata, Rolleston, Tongariro/Rangipo and Waikeria prisons.

At the same time, there will be significant investment to refurbish Auckland Prison’s East Division, which houses prisoners in maximum security, and Invercargill Prison’s West Wing.

“Our prisons need to balance the need for security with the need for prisoner rehabilitation.

“The changes we are proposing include the closure of prisons or prison units that are reaching the end of their operational life or are already empty. Some of our prisons were built in the Victorian era for the purpose of confinement and no thought of rehabilitation,” says Mr Smith.

“We value the work our staff do and wherever possible we will ensure they continue to have a job in the Department of Corrections. We envisage most staff in units proposed for closure transferring into roles elsewhere in the same prison or transferring to another prison nearby.

“For example Wellington Prison Staff and some Arohata staff will be offered roles in nearby Rimutaka Prison in Upper Hutt.

“Where that is not the case we propose to work with staff and unions to establish options for relocation, retraining and redeployment within the Corrections system that will provide real choices for ongoing employment.”

Every attempt will be made to ensure as many inmates as possible are housed in prisons in their present regions close to their families.

Over the past year Mr Smith has visited all 19 prisons. In some of the prisons there are issues with bad lighting, a lack of toilet facilities, no provision for disabled access, poor cell observation and line of sight, exposed pipes and services, and inadequate staff facilities.

“The poor state of these facilities make them a far from ideal place to work and their aged set up stands in the way of the important work we do to ensure public safety and reduce re-offending”

The planned changes will occur throughout the year and Mr Smith and other Corrections executives would be visiting prisons to explain the proposed changes.

“We are passionate about our ability to improve people’s lives, even though we work with some of the most dangerous and difficult people in the country”, says Mr Smith.

Consultation with staff on the proposal begins today.


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