Waikeria expansion "must only be short-term"

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News of 600 new prison beds at Waikeria must go hand-in-hand with a long-term commitment to close substandard facilities and reduce the prison muster, the PSA says.

Corrections minister Kelvin Davis has confirmed 500 new high-security beds at Waikeria, and 100 specialist beds for inmates with high mental health needs.

This is in addition to the commitment to 600 temporary prison places announced in last month’s Budget.

"Our members in Corrections will welcome the government’s decision, which we hope will ease the immediate prison overcrowding crisis," PSA Organiser Willie Cochrane says.

"Right now, cramped and unsafe conditions are posing a serious health and safety risk to our members and to inmates as well.

"It’s good that 100 of the new beds will cater to prisoners with mental health issues, and will be fully staffed with specialist practitioners.

"We hope this additional capacity will be enough to stop double-bunking and allow our members to do the rehabilitation work that’s desperately needed."

Mr Cochrane says the expansion of overall prison capacity must only be a short-term measure - and the long-term goal remains reducing the number of people in prison.

"The PSA remains in total agreement with the Government that there are too many New Zealanders in prison," Mr Cochrane says.

"As the muster reduces, we want to see the substandard units at Waikeria closed - and we would welcome the Minister’s promise that this will happen.

"Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction, but there is far more to do."