Government approves plans for increased prison capacity

  • Judith Collins

The Government has approved plans to increase prison capacity on existing prison sites by approximately 1800 beds, Corrections Minister Judith Collins says.

Despite significant progress in reducing crime the number of prisoners has increased faster than projected. This is because the proportion of offenders charged with serious crimes has risen, meaning more people are being remanded in custody and serving more of their sentences in prison.

“We have to respond through new investment or we will create unacceptable safety risks for staff, prisoners and the public, and be less effective at rehabilitating prisoners.

“We’re already adding 341 prisoner places through the use of double bunking and converting facilities to accommodate prisoner beds. This is part of the financial commitment we made in Budget 2016 to Phase One of the Prison Capacity Programme, but as we look out over the next five years this will not be enough.

“To meet the growth in the prison population we need to invest in a further 1800 prisoner places in the network under Phase Two of the Programme, at a construction cost of around $1 billion.”

The Government has approved an increase in double bunking in the Northland Region Corrections Facility at Ngawha by 80 beds. It has also approved a new accommodation block to be built at Mt Eden Corrections Facility, adding 245 beds.

Ministers will next month consider a detailed business case for formal approval of a new 1500 bed facility at the existing Waikeria Prison in the Waikato. Corrections will also propose increasing the delivery of rehabilitation programmes including Drug Treatment Units, reintegration programmes, education and training programmes and Special Treatment Units to help address violent and sexual offending.

“Phase Two of the prison programme won’t be just in bricks and mortar but will also be aimed at the drivers of crime, drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence.”

The new facility at Waikeria Prison will be operated by Corrections but built and maintained by a Public Private Partnership, the same model currently being used by Corrections in building its new maximum security facility in the grounds of Auckland Prison.

“The construction of a new facility for around 1500 prisoners at Waikeria which could be delivered in two stages - would be a significant contribution to ensuring that Corrections can accommodate the forecast numbers of prisoners.”

Most of the forecast demand is expected to come from the upper North Island and Waikeria is in a good location to serve this demand. Being close to the areas of need reduces the costs of operating the prison network and helps keep prisoners close to family and support networks.

The Government is committed to ensuring value for money for taxpayers and all the proposed beds are on prison land where a lot of the infrastructure is already in place.

At Mt Eden Corrections Facility the earthworks platform already exists for the new structure. The current development was built with future expansion a possibility, and at Waikeria Prison there’s ample space for a facility to hold the increased number of prisoners.

“Getting this proposal underway now will help ensure the growth is well planned, and that the prison network can help keep our communities safe in the future.”