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The Ardern-Peters Government is putting ideology ahead of public safety by not building the much-needed prison at Waikeria, National’s Corrections Spokesperson David Bennett says.

“No government wants to build a new prison, but when you’re faced with an increase in serious and violent crime it is the only option to keep the public safe.

“That’s why National put plans in place for a 1500-bed facility at Waikeria Prison.

“But the Government dithered for seven months over whether to go ahead with this facility, all while prison numbers continue to rise, and has now confirmed that it is off the table.

“This flies in the face of all the data that shows the prison population is forecast to keep rising and indicates loud and clear the Government will be moving towards softening bail laws.

“Its Budget announcement to provide 600 pop-up beds in existing prisons is like putting a plaster over a gaping wound.

“It will also make it much harder for prisoners to access the rehabilitation and education services they need.

“Not only has the Government not increased funding for rehabilitation services to reflect rising prison numbers, it appears it has actually cut funding to programmes like the Alcohol and Other Drug Aftercare Package and Methamphetamine Targeted Screening and Rehabilitation.

“The plans for the new facility at Waikeria would have included Drug Treatment Units, reintegration programmes, education and training programmes and Special Treatment Units to help address violent and sexual offending.

“It would have also included an upgrade of the existing facilities at Waikeria, which are no longer fit-for-purpose and pose health and safety risks to Corrections staff and prisoners.

“If the Government took crime seriously and prioritised public safety, it would have picked up where we left off and the new prison build would likely be underway by now.

“Instead, it has no plan to reduce reoffending and appears willing to gamble public safety for its own ideologies.”

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