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Violence will not be tolerated

7 November 2005

Violence will not be tolerated

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Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor has welcomed the decision by Upper Hutt Police to lay assault charges against seven prisoners accused of assaulting corrections officers. "Any acts of violence inside or outside of prison should not be tolerated and I support the Department in referring all allegations of criminal offending to the Police," Mr O'Connor said.

"The prisoners' appearance in court today sends a strong signal that acts of violence against staff are taken very seriously and that prisoners involved in these incidents will be held accountable."

The safety of staff was a top priority in the management of prisoners. "The nature of some of the people in our prisons means occasional conflict is inevitable. Corrections officers are trained to deal with these situations and I believe they do an excellent job."

Mr O'Connor said the National party's criticism of inaction in the area of corrections was completely unfounded.

"Where issues arise, they're responded to immediately and effectively. Case in point is the prisoner found with contraband this week who now faces criminal charges. It was increased vigilance and a concerted focus on preventing prisoners using drugs that led to those charges being laid."

Mr O'Connor said there were some long-term challenges facing the Prison Service, largely relating to muster numbers. But the government had been working hard to achieve long-term solutions, and would continue to do so.

"Over the course of this year, 380 extra beds have been constructed at existing prison sites and the 350-bed Northland Region Corrections Facility (Ngawha) is now fully operational. Another 113 beds on existing sites will be available next year, along with the 286-bed Auckland women's facility. As well, new prison facilities in Otago and Spring Hill open in 2007."

The extra capacity requirements could be put down to the government's tougher response to offending, he said. "Basically, increased inmate numbers are due to tougher bail, sentencing and parole laws introduced by the government since it came to power in 1999."

When all of the current construction is complete, the country's prison capacity will have risen by 2109 beds - an increase of nearly a third and at a cost of more than $800 million.

ENDS

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