News that the Ardern-Peters Government is adding only half the prison beds needed to keep our most serious offenders locked up confirms it will be softening bail, parole and sentencing laws and putting New Zealanders at risk, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“This clumsy and incompetent Government is failing its most fundamental obligation and that’s to keep New Zealanders safe.
“Adding only 600 beds at Waikeria Prison will mean the Government simply can’t lock away all the serious offenders it needs to and more serious offenders will be free in the community.
“It means the Government is going to make it harder for police and the courts to send criminals to prison and allow serious offenders to get out sooner – all because the Government is trying to save money by not building a new, much-needed prison.
“National knew what needed doing.
“We had committed to building a new 1500-bed facility at Waikeria, based on forecast growth in the prison population.
“Recent conservative estimates put the forecast prison population at 12,500 by 2026 – around 2000 more than now – and that doesn’t include the 900 more beds the Government has been told it will need as a result of having more police on the streets.
“That means New Zealand will be hundreds of prison beds short of what’s needed.
“The Government’s pledge to cut prison numbers by a third is reckless.
“Its own figures show 98 per cent of people in our prisons are there for Category 3 and Category 4 crimes. These are the most serious offences, like murder, sexual violence and Class A drug dealing.
“The Government needs to explain how it is going to pick and choose which of our most serious offenders will be let loose on our communities because it’s decided the safety of New Zealanders isn’t a priority.
“When the Government has $1 billion to spend on diplomats and $2.8 billion to make university free there is no excuse for not building the prison beds needed to keep New Zealanders safe. ”