Staffing shortages compromising prison safety

Critical shortages of Corrections staff are causing chaos in our prisons and putting both staff and prisoners in harm's way, National’s spokesperson for Corrections Simon O’Connor says.

“Figures show that the Department of Corrections currently has 1,600 vacant roles, with 532 for custodial positions.

“Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis is making zero progress towards making up this massive deficit. In July of this year, more staff resigned than were employed by Corrections.

“Meanwhile, assaults in Kiwi prisons have more than doubled since 2017. We are seeing increased rates of aggression in prisons, low rates of rehabilitation programmes and high levels of intentional damage. All of this is connected to prisons being critically understaffed and barely functioning.

“As part of Budget 2022, Kelvin Davis promised that 500 additional roles would be created on top of the 1,600 vacancies that already exist. How on earth will the Minister find 500 more staff when he can’t even fix the current shortage?

“Corrections is already planning to shift prisoners from Arohata Prison and Invercargill Prison because dire shortages mean that staff aren’t able to facilitate prisoner visitation, increase unlock hours or resume programmes that are important for rehabilitation.

“It has reached the point that the Human Rights Commission has written to the Department of Corrections raising concerns about prisoners being denied face-to-face visits. In August, Christchurch Men’s Prison was able to facilitate just one prisoner visit, even though prisoners should be able to receive a visit every week.

“The shambolic state of New Zealand’s prisons and the trauma it is inflicting on staff, prisoners and their families is something the Minister needs to answer for.

“It is clear that Kelvin Davis’ approach is not working. Until these staffing pressures begin to be alleviated, a tsunami of violence will continue to sweep through our prisons.”