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A lack of prison beds to meet increasing prisoner numbers is leading to a perfect storm in our prison system, National’s Corrections spokesperson David Bennett says.

“The revelation today that our prisons are a couple hundred Corrections Officers short is very concerning and yet another reason why this Government cannot be trusted to keep New Zealanders safe.

“The shortage is only going to get worse after the Government’s reckless refusal to build the number of prison beds needed to meet forecast growth in the prison population.

“It’s going to be much harder for Corrections to fill the vacant jobs because people know that they will be working in crowded prisons that aren’t fit-for-purpose.

“Cramming violent criminals into confined spaces because the Government hasn’t built enough capacity will lead to more violence between prisoners and Corrections Officers.

“With the increasing prison population and staff shortages happening in tandem, Corrections Officers will be stretched thin which will make it harder for them to do their jobs and easier for prisoners to take advantage.

“The Government can hardly claim to be focused on mental health in our prisons when it is creating an environment that will lead to higher levels of aggression and frustration among prisoners, with Corrections Officers bearing the brunt of that.

“Staff are rightly concerned that it could take a Corrections Officer getting seriously injured, or worse, before the Government does the right thing and invests in the required capacity.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that.”

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