Revelations that the Government has known since last year that the prison population is set to rise by 2000 more than the last forecast suggested makes its decision to downsize the new Waikeria Prison all the more egregious, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“The Government has sat on a report for over six months showing that the prison population is forecast to reach 14,400, up from the previous forecast of 12,200, yet in that time made the decision to reduce the planned number of beds at Waikeria Prison from 1500 to just 600.
“Responding to a forecast increase of 2000 more prisoners by reducing the number of new beds at Waikeria Prison by almost 1000 shows a disconnect with reality and disregard for the safety of New Zealanders.
“On top of all this, there are more cops being added to the force which will raise the prison muster further and a shortage of around 200-250 Corrections Officers. A perfect storm is on its way to our criminal justice system and safety within and outside prison is in peril.
“It’s no wonder the Government chose to quietly dump the forecast report online without a word on Saturday.
“The National Government had used these forecast reports in making our decision to build a 1500-bed facility at Waikeria. That’s what a responsible Government that prioritises public safety does.
“Ignoring the latest forecast in its decision to downsize Waikeria Prison is the latest example of this Government dismissing evidence and advice it doesn’t like – but is perhaps the most shocking example because of the impact it will have on public safety.
“New Zealand will be hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of prison beds short which means the Government won’t be able to put away all the serious offenders it needs to.
“It also shows that the Government’s Criminal Justice Summit in a few months is nothing more than a public relations exercise – it has already pre-determined the outcome and that’s to loosen up our bail, parole and sentencing laws.
“The Government will be making it easier for criminals to get out of prison and harder for them to get there in the first place, which means it is failing its most fundamental obligation to keep New Zealanders safe.”