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New prison beds will heighten staffing shortage

New prison beds will heighten staffing shortage

Extra prison beds being added to four prisons nationwide will help ease overcrowding, but is certain to exacerbate the prison officer understaffing crisis, says the Public Service Association (PSA).

Acting Corrections Minister Phil Goff today announced a further 240 beds will be added to Wanganui, Christchurch Men’s, Christchurch Women’s and Rimutaka prisons. The Department of Corrections currently needs an additional 300 prison officers and predicts this figure will grow to 1,500 staff as new prisons are opened over the next four years.

The PSA’s national organiser for the Department of Corrections, Alan Ware, says the extra beds make it even more urgent to improve the working conditions of prison staff.

“Prison staff are working longer working hours and recently agreed to introduce double bunking at some prisons to cope with the growing prison population.

“These extra beds will relieve the pressure on police cells and we welcome them for that reason. But the staffing problem remains unresolved and must be urgently addressed.

“Salaries continue to be a major impediment to prison officer recruitment. Potential prison officers can be paid the same or better wages working elsewhere, without the stress and long working hours.

“Until the salaries question is addressed staffing the nation’s bulging prisons will continue to be a headache for the government,” Alan Ware said.

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