Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis advised Cabinet to adopt the previous Government’s plan to build 1500 beds at Waikeria Prison because it was ‘the only sensible plan’, but his colleagues ignored his advice, National’s Corrections spokesperson David Bennett says.
“This makes the Government’s decision to slash the number of new beds at Waikeria Prison by 1000 all the more confusing and reeks of a Government that doesn’t know what it’s doing when comes to law and order, and is risking public safety as a result.
“Official advice released yesterday shows that this year New Zealand will be over 2300 prison beds short and by 2027 that number increases to more than 4500.
“In a December 2017 paper also released yesterday, Mr Davis advised Cabinet that in recognition of the forecast shortfall, maintaining National’s plan was the ‘only sensible plan of action’ and recommended the Government implement the plan we had in place.
“But his colleagues ignored him and just six months later the Government recklessly went ahead with its dangerous plan to downsize the Waikeria Prison build by 1000 beds.
“As a result our communities and our prisons and the staff in them are less safe. The decision not to build more prison beds is reckless and what’s worse the newly released papers confirm the Government’s reasons simply don’t stack up.
“A May 2018 paper says that large facilities, like the planned 1500-bed facility at Waikeria, are not only ‘the most efficient and cost-effective way to add quality capacity to the prison network’, but also allow a ‘full range of specialist facilities and rehabilitation programmes’.
“So not only was our plan better for taxpayers, but it would have meant better access to treatment and rehabilitation for prisoners to improve their chances of not reoffending.
“But in abandoning the previous Government’s sensible plans in favour of a much smaller prison, this Government is now faced with a shortage of more than 2300 beds this year.
“The Government must now explain to New Zealanders how it is going to pick and choose which of these criminals it will allow out into our communities.”