More beds planned for Invercargill prison

Invercargill Prison Director Daryl Tamati has recently been appointed to the role.
ROBYN EDIE/FAIRFAX NZ

Invercargill Prison Director Daryl Tamati has recently been appointed to the role.

Increasing prisoner capacity and conservation support programmes are just two of the projects under the care of the new Invercargill Prison director, Daryl Tamati.

Tamati has been appointed to the role after several months as acting prison director.

He's worked at the prison for 28 years as a corrections officer, and said being appointed to the top job in his hometown meant he knew he can make a difference.

One of his key focuses will be to guard against complacency with staff, making sure they continue to be mindful of the environment they're in, and that they keep themselves and their mates safe.

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But there are other challenges facing Invercargill Prison too, as well as some new programmes for offenders.

Tamati said Invercargill Prison had a consistently high muster, not only of offenders from Southland, but as part of the national network.

Prisoners from elsewhere are occasionally sent to Invercargill prison because that's where the beds are available.

The prison has capacity for about 172 prisoners, but Tamati said discussions were under way to increase that by about 43.

It will require a "significant" financial investment, and up to 14 new staff, however there would not be a new building, Tamati said.

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"[It will be done] within our existing space." 

Any potential expansion would only be possible with extensive planning, and safety was key.

"The works are ongoing and we're in the early stages of that," Tamati said.

Meanwhile, the prison will continue to look for ways to engage with community groups.

Already, discussions have been held about a "gap" in how corrections can support youth, while at Invercargill Prison, offenders have been propagating plants for a scout group's plan to plant them along rivers.

The horticulture project was sparked by a staff member who is also a scout leader, Tamati said, and has led to discussions with Environment Southland and the Department of Conservation about how offenders can do more.

"We might be making boxes for traps or boxes for refuges, you know, like weta hotels," he said.

Those kinds of programmes were all about helping offenders develop skills they may be able to use on release.

Other ongoing skills programmes include working with the Southern Institute of Technology, where offenders build houses and fencing, take part in quadbike, and chainsaw skills training and work around the prison itself, including in the kitchen, painting, and grounds work.

 - Stuff

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