Government's $1b plans to sleep 1800 more prisoners creating 'schools for crime' - Labour
The Government's plans to spend a billion dollars on more beds for New Zealand's burgeoning prison population shows it is "deadly serious" about cracking down on methamphetamine and violent crime, Corrections Minister Judith Collins says.
Labour has criticised the announcement, saying it is due to a failure to reduce reoffending and will simply create more "schools for crime".
Collins announced the plans for another 1800 beds around the country, saying that although levels of crime had reduced, the number of prisoners had increased "faster than projected".
The beds will include more double-bunking in Northland's Ngawha Prison, a new 245-bed block built at Mt Eden, and a yet-to-be-approved new facility with 1500 beds on the existing site of Waikeria Prison - run by Corrections but built and maintained by a public-private partnership.
Collins said the Government's plans showed it was "deadly serious" about cracking down on methamphetamine and family violence, with 70 per cent of the current prison population jailed for serious violent, sexual or drug-related offending.
"I'd like every meth dealer to know they're not going to get a get out of jail free pass because there's not enough beds - we'll have enough for them."
Corrections was recruiting another 700 staff as part of the building plans, with 100 of those to be "very experienced" people from overseas.
Asked whether the Government would fail in its plans to reduce reoffending by 25 per cent before June 2017, Collins said with hindsight it was "probably not the right target" and should have focussed on reducing overall offending, rather than reoffending.
KEY: CHANGING NATURE OF CRIME BEHIND RISE
Prime Minister John Key said the higher prisoner numbers reflected the changing nature of crime, with the overall crime rate falling but violent and drug-related crimes on the rise.
"It's a bit of an international trend: you saw overall crime rates falling internationally for a while and we were consistent with that, and they continue to fall in total numbers, but as I say, that hardened end [is] definitely going up a bit."
The high muster was also due in part to tougher sentencing laws put in place by the Government, Key said.
PRISONS 'SCHOOLS FOR CRIME'
Labour corrections spokesman Kelvin Davis said the Government's plans amounted to an admission that it had failed to tackle reoffending, with prison musters going up "spectacularly" in recent years.
"They were meant to reduce crime and now they're just building more prisons and filling them up."
Davis said rehabilitation programmes in prison were not working, with the facilities acting as "production lines for criminals".
"Prisons are basically schools for crime, and people are graduating and not being rehabilitated...going on to commit more crime."
The Government needed to spend more money on "stopping people getting into prison in the first place, rather than locking them up", he said.
Corrections will also propose increasing the delivery of rehabilitation programmes including drug treatment units, reintegration programmes, education and training programmes and special treatment units to help address violent and sexual offending.