600 new prison beds not enough, Corrections officers say
18 May 2018
Frontline prison staff say they’re no better off after yesterday’s Budget - despite the extra capacity announced by the Labour-led Government.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced 600 new prison beds to be built in modular units by the end of next year, but would not say whether the extension of Waikeria Prison would go ahead.
PSA Organiser Willie Cochrane says this has done nothing to reassure the union’s members working in prisons, and morale is at an all-time low.
"Our members have taken the Finance Minister’s comments as a sign Waikeria will not be built," Mr Cochrane says.
"If that’s the case, they say 600 beds will not be enough to ease the current crisis, because so many of the current prison areas are not fit to house inmates.
"All prison staff, including Community Corrections staff working in prisons, are under constant pressure, because prisons are so overcrowded they can’t do the rehabilitation work inmates need.
"Corrections officers can’t take breaks, stress levels are through the roof and there are constant underlying fears about the safety of working in such overcrowded prisons."
Mr Cochrane says PSA members in Corrections applaud the Government’s target to reduce the number of people in jail in New Zealand, but in the short term, decisive action needs to be taken.
"We’re asking Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis to make a definitive statement of what his plans are for Waikeria.
"If that expansion isn’t going ahead, we want to hear what more he’ll do to expand the capacity of our prisons in the short term and keep our members safe in the workplace.
"Creating a safe environment for staff and prisoners means more staff and more space to do quality rehabilitation - which will be needed if the fall in prison numbers is to be achieved.
"Prison overcrowding leads to more violence on our members in the workplace, and we are worried lives are being put at greater risk by these decisions.
"Our members just want to do their jobs in safety, and this Budget’s done nothing to reassure them that anything will change."