Prison violence out of control on Labour’s watch

The number of prisoner assaults on corrections officers has skyrocketed in recent years with more than 2000 incidents taking place on the Labour Government’s watch, National’s Corrections spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

Figures released to National show the year to June 2020 was a stand-out with 889 assaults. This is a 92 per cent increase on year to June 2017 – the last full financial year of the previous National Government – when there were 463 assaults.

Data from the first seven months of the year to June 2021 suggest we are on track for a similar or greater number of assaults on corrections officers, Mr Brown says.

“The amount of violence happening in our prisons is out of control on Labour’s watch.

“Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis needs to step up and make sure staff in New Zealand’s prisons have the resources and support they need to get on top of this problem.”

Auckland Prison, Auckland South Corrections Facility and Christchurch Men’s Prison recorded the most assaults, with 772 in total occurring across these three facilities on the current Government’s watch.

Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults have also increased significantly with 1407 of these in the year to June 2020 compared to 1177 in the year to June 2017. This is a concern because of the risk they pose for corrections officers who have to break up fights, Mr Brown says.

“Despite being incredibly vocal on this issue when he was in Opposition, Kelvin Davis only started requesting reports on the number of assaults happening in prisons in February.

“He has been the minister in charge for three and a half years now. It beggars belief that he has been turning a blind eye to this issue.”

In answers to written parliamentary questions from National, the Corrections Minister also confirmed he has not requested any advice from his officials on a potential law change that could reduce assaults on Corrections staff.

“Just like he was during the Waikeria Prison riot, Kelvin Davis is asleep at the wheel when it comes to escalating violence in our prisons. A National Government would not tolerate this.”

More information on assaults in New Zealand prisons was supplied to National by the Corrections Minister in answers to written parliamentary questions. You can read them here.