No frills for new prisons says National

Last updated 22:41 10/02/2009

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Justice Minister Simon Power says prisons built by National will not have underfloor heating, plasma TVs or flash gymnasiums and could include inmates being housed in prefabricated cells from 2012.

Mr Power said the Corrections Department was investigating "prefabricated modular units", which could be built for about half the $643,000 per-cell prisons built under the last government.

"If this option is agreed to, the department expects the first modular unit to be occupied by prisoners on or around September 2012," he told MPs.

Whichever option was chosen, any new prisons would not have underfloor heating or plasma TVs and inmates would have modest exercise areas instead of the gymnasiums Mr Power said he had seen at one prison, which was "flash enough to charge a joining fee and yearly membership".

In Opposition, National was highly critical of the previous government's decision to install underfloor heating in new prisons. Labour argued it was the cheapest option for keeping the prisons at a constant temperature.

Labour law and order spokesman Clayton Cosgrove questioned whether prefabricated cells would have the same security and durability as permanent jails, which were built to last 100 years.

Mr Power was confident existing standards would be met whichever option was chosen.

Earlier, he defended a bill due before Parliament that would give police much wider powers to take and use dna from people who have not been charged with an offence, scrapping the need for approval from a High Court judge.

Civil liberties lawyers have criticised the Criminal Investigation (Bodily Samples) Amendment Bill.

Mr Power said dna was an important crime-fighting tool which could be used to prove innocence as well as guilt.

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- The Dominion Post

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