NZ's bulging prison population 'unprecedented': Budget

Christchurch Men's Prison, which has a muster of almost 1000 sentenced prisoners and remand prisoners.
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ

Christchurch Men's Prison, which has a muster of almost 1000 sentenced prisoners and remand prisoners.

The growth of the prison population is "unprecedented" and "unanticipated", according to the Budget released on Thursday by Finance Minister Steven Joyce.

The system has a built-in buffer for the population but, on several occasions in recent months, the authorities have referred to the "unexpected" rise in the number of inmates.

In November, the population behind bars hit 10,000, dipped in December, then hit 10,200 in early 2017.

Prime Minister Bill English and Finance Minister Steven Joyce make their way to the house before the 2017 Budget ...
Hagen Hopkins

Prime Minister Bill English and Finance Minister Steven Joyce make their way to the house before the 2017 Budget presentation.

The population in prisons had been increasing steadily during the last decade.

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The Budget earmarks funding for prisoner rehabilitation and management of at-risk prisoners while a capital programme continues to ensure "sufficient capacity to accommodate growing prison population levels."

"Since early 2014, there has been a period of unprecedented and unanticipated growth in the prison population with continued growth forecast.

"The Department has had its baseline reset and secured new funding in 2016/17 and [beyond] to ensure it has the capacity to accommodate the rising prison population, maintain public safety and reduce re-offending."

In the early 2000s, the total population was around 6,000, mostly men and about 275 women. Of this, around 5000 were serving a sentence.

In the Budget, Corrections receives almost $1bn - $938 million - in day-to-day spending - 60 per cent of the departmental allocation.

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Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent on managing offenders in the community and electronic monitoring.

The Budget allocates $255.9m in funding over four years and $763 to boost capacity in the country's 18 prisons.

 - Stuff

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