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What is the Corrections Minister hiding?

26 October 2004

Hon. Tony Ryall MP - National Law and Order spokesman

What is the Corrections Minister hiding?

The Corrections Department's refusal to release briefing papers on prisoner muster numbers suggests it has something to hide, says National's Law and Order spokesman, Tony Ryall.

The National Party has made two requests asking for information relating to prison muster numbers, population forecasts and inmate numbers. The department refused to release documents on prison population forecasts, managing increased inmate numbers, trends in inmate numbers, the number of female prisoners, and an increase in the South Auckland Women's Correction Facility.

The department says that to release the documents 'could have the potential to adversely affect the sensitive nature of the department's negotiations with its unions'.

It further says 'the immediate need to make effective decisions on managing inmate numbers and to not unduly influence the department's industrial negotiations, outweighs the public interest in releasing this information'.

Mr Ryall says Corrections Minister Paul Swain and his department are hiding behind the Official Information Act to deny the public vital information on the prison muster crisis.

"We all know there is a very serious crisis in our prisons, and in police stations which are being used as temporary prisons, but this department and this minister refuse to tell us the full extent and how they are going to fix this shambles.

"What is this Minister hiding? Perhaps prison overcrowding is much worse than we have been lead to believe? Or perhaps they are trying to hide the fact that they have known about this problem for quite a while.

"The public must be allowed to know how this situation came about and what the Government is doing about it. Surely the situation is now so serious that Mr Swain has waived any right to withhold information," Mr Ryall says.

National has asked the Office of the Ombusmen to investigate the OIA refusal.


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