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The Government continues to have its head in the sand over the rising prison population and its refusal to admit a new prison is urgently needed is putting public safety at risk, National’s Corrections spokesperson Simon O’Connor says.

“With only 300 prison beds left and the Government no closer to making a decision on whether to continue the previous Government’s plan to build a new prison at Waikeria, New Zealanders have a right to be concerned for their safety.

“There is no denying the prison population is rising fast and these criminals have to be put somewhere. The Police Commissioner today revealed that capacity is so tight that remanded and sentenced criminals are having to be held in police cells.

“But Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis continues to put his own ideology ahead of public safety. He appears to be ignoring his own officials’ forecasts which show the urgent need for a new prison.

“At the same time, the Government has promised to increase the number of cops by 1800 which is going to mean more arrests and more people in prison.

“We know that the prison population can rise by 300 in just a matter of weeks, so what’s going to happen when we reach full capacity? Are criminals going to be let loose on our communities? Are violent criminals going to be crammed on top of each other in prison cells?

“We all know Labour prefers to be soft on crime but quite simply, the Government is going to find that it has no choice but to commit to the Waikeria prison build. The sooner it gets on with it, the better.”

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