Crisis in prison overcrowding needs urgent action - PSA

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New Zealand’s prison system is in crisis, the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi says, and urgent action is needed to ensure the safety of prisoners and corrections officers.

Documents given to TVNZ revealed prisoners at Auckland Regional Women’s Correctional Facility in South Auckland will be forced to sleep in court cells if the prison reaches capacity.

Prisoners are taken by bus to Manukau District Court, where they stay the night – but then next morning they are then bussed back to the prison.

PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay says overcrowding has reached crisis point, and the potential consequences could be devastating.

“We have grave concerns for the safety of our members at work – and for the prisoners housed in these overcrowded jails,” Mr Barclay says.

“It’s hard enough to manage the tensions that arise in overcrowded jails, without the added stress of having to transport prisoners across South Auckland twice a day.”

Overcrowding and constant transporting of prisoners makes it impossible to carry out the reintegration and rehabilitation programmes that are proven to cut reoffending, Mr Barclay says.

“The Department of Corrections is doing its best to manage this crisis, but it’s struggling in the face of government policies which have seen the prison muster soar.

“The government needs to urgently look at why incarceration rates, particularly for women, are growing at such a rate.

“And it needs to front up to our members – and the whole of New Zealand – to explain how it plans to keep them, and their communities, safe.”