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PSA concerned policies put prison staff at risk

PSA MEDIA RELEASE December 2, 2008

PSA concerned government's policies put prison staff at risk

The Public Service Association is concerned that prison staff will be at greater risk as a result of policies that will see prisoners locked up for longer.

"We already have close to 8000 inmates and locking prisoners up for longer will increase the risk of attacks on prison staff," says PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff.

The PSA has 2000 members working for the Corrections Department, with 800 of these working in prisons.

"The government is talking about having two prisoners per cell as a way to squeeze more prisoners into our jails," says Richard Wagstaff. "This will only increase tensions and heighten the risk of violence among prisoners and against staff."

The government's law and order policies include longer sentences for crimes against children, no parole for repeat violent offenders and life without parole for most serious murders.

"Prison officers fear that prisoners with no possibility of parole are more likely to lash out at fellow prisoners and prison staff because they'll feel they have nothing to lose," says Richard Wagstaff.

He says tension in prisons are already high because a shortage of prison officers means prisoners are spending longer locked up in their cells.

Richard Wagstaff says the PSA would like to talk to new Corrections Minister Judith Collins about the impact the government's law and order policies will have on the safety of Corrections Department staff

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"We're also concerned that if prisons become more violent and a growing proportion of prisoners are long term inmates, it will be harder for staff to carry out effective rehabilitation work," says Richard Wagstaff.

He says the PSA supports government policies to expand literacy programmes for prisoners and increase the number of prisoners learning industry-based skills and receiving drug and alcohol counselling.

"But if the number of prisoners increases because of longer sentences and less parole, are prisons going to have the capacity to do this rehabilitative work," asks Richard Wagstaff.

"We want to talk to the new minister about ensuring Corrections has the staff and resources it needs to turn prisoners around and give them the motivation and skills they need to stop offending," says Richard Wagstaff.

The PSA also wants to talk about the government's policy of privatising the management of prisons starting with a new prison it plans to build by 2011.

"Overseas experience shows that private prisons seek to cut costs to maximise their profits by cutting back on rehabilitation programmes," says Richard Wagstaff

"There's a move away from private prisons in Britain and Canada because they don't perform as well publicly owned and run prisons."

"We should learn from this experience by not going down the failed path of privatising prisons," says Richard Wagstaff.


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