Corrections’ plans to reduce prison population good, but need more detail

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PSA members working in prisons want to see more detail of the government’s plans to cut the number of Kiwis in jail, particularly around prison beds and Community Corrections.

“Any initiatives that will relieve the pressures in prisons will be welcomed by our members, who know how close the system is to breaking point,” PSA Organiser Willie Cochrane says.

“Right now our prisons are so overcrowded that many inmates are housed in substandard and dangerous accommodation.

“Our members can’t do the rehabilitation work that’s sorely needed if these inmates are going to turn their lives around and stay out of jail in future.

“Their safety – and that of our members – is our prime concern.”

Mr Cochrane says PSA members have told him they’re concerned 600 additional beds will not be enough to ease the pressure, and 1000 is the number needed to ensure safe environments.

“In addition, the move to more community-based sentences will mean more Community Corrections staff are needed.

“This means not just hiring more probation officers, but more support staff, managers, psychologists and rehabilitation experts.

“Again, it comes down to safety – for the public, and for our members – and proper resourcing so the best outcomes can be delivered.

Mr Cochrane says Justice Minister Andrew Little is right to identify public engagement as a crucial factor in the success of any efforts to reduce the prison population.

“We need to take the public with us, and the PSA is glad to see a genuine desire to explain and reassure New Zealanders that everyone will win from having fewer prisoners in our jails.

“Sensationalising this issue won’t help anyone.

“Everyone within the system – the Government, the Ministry, and unions – sees the need to take action on the muster crisis.

“But we need to do it right, and the PSA is committed to being part of this debate – on behalf of its members and of New Zealanders.”