Waikeria prison decision deferred again

Some work has started on a controversial new prison at Waikeria, but no announcement has yet been made on what is being built.

On 29 March (Stuff) Andrew Little confirms decision on Waikeria within two weeks

Justice Minister Andrew Little has confirmed a decision will be made regarding the future of Waikeria prison within two weeks.

The Government originally promised to make the decision by the end of March but are pushing the deadline to mid-April.

Mr Little has previously said on Newshub Nation he wants to shift justice policy towards rehabilitation in order to lower prison numbers, saying what he saw when visiting Waikeria Prison “horrified him”.

“You have to ask yourself whether this is a place where someone can go from being bad to being good.”

Mr Little said he remained open to the idea of amending bail laws, which Labour previously supported tightening, but says there was no specific plan in place to change them

The Minister said within two or three months there would be a “high profile summit on criminal justice issues to get public debate going”.

Prison populations are projected to soar to over 12,000 by 2022.

Nearly four weeks later still no announcement but some work has started: Otorohanga still hoping for Waikeria prison expansion

Preparatory work has begun at the Waikeria prison site in the King Country, even though the Government has still not decided if it will go ahead with the expansion.

The Department of Corrections said that despite putting the expansion decision on ice, the Government agreed for Corrections to continue some preparatory work at Waikeria while options were considered.

Last Wednesday, Justice Minister Andrew Little said a decision on the “mega prison” would be made public within the next few weeks.

Another few weeks. The prison poses a dilemma for the Government, who have pledged to slash prison numbers but that will take time, and they are currently faced with having to deal with a growing prison population.

There are important legal considerations, as well as finding the money from a budget under pressure to deliver on election pledges.

Waatea News earlier this month: Waikeria decision sparks letter campaign

Campaign group Action Station says 1300 supporters have written letters to Justice Minister Andrew Little and Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis urging them to stop the new billion-dollar prison in Waikeria.

Action Station director Laura O’Connell Rapira says the community are passionate about supporting efforts to build a more compassionate justice system which prioritises prevention, restoration and rehabilitation, and an end to the over-incarceration of Maori people.

She says while the Government is concerned about the state of prisons and wants to end double-bunking, a new prison will inevitably fail in terms of reducing crime.

But in the short term growing numbers have to be housed.

There may be no real choice but to build a prison at Waikeria, but if plans are to substantially reduce the prison population this would be a good opportunity to take a radical new approach to prisons, especially in relation to the disproportionate number of Māori prisoners.

If it doesn’t work, then it can be scrapped as numbers are reduced, and if it does work well then older traditional prison space can be scrapped.

But there is an indication a different approach is not being considered.

RNZ: Govt yet to pursue idea of separate Māori prison

The Corrections Minister has not looked to advance an idea he pushed while in opposition, to establish a separate Māori prison.

And a decision on whether to build a new $1 billion prison at Waikeria in rural Waikato is still pending – a month after Kelvin Davis said a final decision would be made.

As Labour’s opposition spokesperson, Mr Davis argued prisoner numbers could be reduced through rehabilitation programmes in a prison run on a kaupapa Māori based approach.

In February this year, he said he was not ruling anything in or out, when asked whether he’d be progressing any units or prisons based on a Māori-only model.

Last week, in a response to an official information request, Mr Davis said while he had been looking at strategies to reduce Māori offending, he had received no advice about a separate Māori prison.

He said he was committed to reducing the prison population by 30 percent over the next 15 years and “addressing the issue of Māori over representation” in prisons.

“I am working with staff, non-government and Māori organisations and communities to meet this challenge and make a meaningful change for all prisoners, including Māori,” Mr Davis said in a letter to RNZ.

It seems odd that Davis hasn’t been looking at Māori-only model, or a Māori-focussed model, while a decision is being made about the Waikeria prison expansion.

It could be something to do with this:

Mr Davis floated the idea of a separate Māori prison last year, as a way of reducing the prison population, a proposal shut down by the party’s leader at the time, Andrew Little.

Davis may have ditched his proposal, or it may have been ditched for him.

The Government can’t keep pushing out a new prison decision for ‘a few weeks’. They will probably have to commit funds in the budget in three weeks. We may find out then whether a Waikeria will be just more of the same, or something bold and different.

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15 Comments

  1. Gezza

     /  April 24, 2018

    Mike Hosking shares a simpleton’s insights on loosening bail laws.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/national-video/news/video.cfm?c_id=1503075&gal_cid=1503075&gallery_id=191935

    Wearing his Mrs’s jacket again, I notice. Pansy.

  2. Blazer

     /  April 24, 2018

    we know the biggest crooks,never go to..prison.

  3. artcroft

     /  April 24, 2018

    Excellent! A segregated prison system (cos its ok when Labour does it). An easy lag for the brown man while whitey gets hard labour.

    • PartisanZ

       /  April 24, 2018

      Uh uh artcroft … the same or harder lag for 4 brown men while 1 white man gets it easier …

  4. Zedd

     /  April 24, 2018

    IF they build a new prison, it will just be expected that it be filled ASAP & then we will likely be having this same discussion in a few years ?

    I thought they were seriously, now looking to REDUCE prison numbers.. Bail laws & Drug laws, as a start ??

    • PartisanZ

       /  April 24, 2018

      According to Andrew Little (and others), if we continue doing what we’ve been doing with Justice we’ll need a new prison every 2 to 3 years. Sensible Sentencing Trust and that cohort of the population will no doubt be pleased, as will the Police – who’ll require more resources – the expanding Judiciary, Corrections and Serco I imagine?

      There won’t be any difficulty filling the cells, because no government is prepared to even attempt to deal with the root causes of crime, or intervene in the lucrative ‘Crime & Punishment’ industry …

      Here’s a brilliantly conceived and well informed article from Spinoff by guest writer Roger Brooking – ‘How to cut the prison population by 50% in five years’ …

      https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/13-03-2018/how-to-cut-the-prison-population-by-50-in-five-years/

      “Of all the punitive legislation passed since 1980, the Bail Amendment Act in 2013 produced the biggest bump in prison numbers. This disastrous piece of legislation was introduced after the murder of Christie Marceau by 18-year-old Akshay Chand while on bail.

      The other quick fix is to let out more short-term prisoners early … Longer term solutions –

      1. Increase the price of alcohol and decriminalise cannabis

      2. Increase the number of drug courts … if the offender agrees to be dealt with in the drug court and go to treatment, he may avoid going to prison.

      3. Increase funding for reintegration services

      There are many other options available. But until we have a government with the courage to ignore the moral panic perpetuated by the Sensible Sentencing Trust over the last 20 years, our prison muster will continue to proliferate. And billions of taxpayer funds will be wasted on the dubious delusion that locking citizens away creates a safer society.”

      I’d add give up the SmokeFree delusion and rationalize the price of tobacco, which could be done at the same time as regulating our new recreational cannabis industry …?

      • PartisanZ

         /  April 24, 2018

        Our new multi-million and perhaps billion dollar medicinal and recreational cannabis industry, with MASSIVE export potential … not to mention many more millions from industrial hemp …

        You want Provincial Growth Mr Jones …?

        • Zedd

           /  April 24, 2018

          hey good ideas man…..

          • PartisanZ

             /  April 24, 2018

            Cheers Zedd …

            Common sense too. The only sense the ‘Crime & Punishment’ industry makes is ‘money sense’ … (they left out the ‘k’ in money) … at the expense of people … and other ‘vested interests’, like Big Pharma, can buy so much influence …

            But imagine the outcry if the price of alcohol was ‘regulated’ … despite many of the same people having no qualms about heavily regulating tobacco and prohibiting cannabis …

            Where all this regulation is concerned … and regulation is often warranted IMHO … we should be striving for a JokeFree society, rather than a SmokeFree one!

  5. Gezza

     /  April 24, 2018

    Last week, in a response to an official information request, Mr Davis said while he had been looking at strategies to reduce Māori offending, he had received no advice about a separate Māori prison. He said he was committed to reducing the prison population by 30 percent over the next 15 years and “addressing the issue of Māori over representation” in prisons.

    “I am working with staff, non-government and Māori organisations and communities to meet this challenge and make a meaningful change for all prisoners, including Māori,” Mr Davis said in a letter to RNZ.

    It seems odd that Davis hasn’t been looking at Māori-only model, or a Māori-focussed model, while a decision is being made about the Waikeria prison expansion. It could be something to do with this:

    Mr Davis floated the idea of a separate Māori prison last year, as a way of reducing the prison population, a proposal shut down by the party’s leader at the time, Andrew Little. Davis may have ditched his proposal, or it may have been ditched for him.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Left hand and right hand – and mouths as well by the look of it – just flapping about in the breeze. Were National Ministers ever this chaotically out of sync with each other before one of them spoke to the media?

    That remark about receiving no advice about a separate Maori prison is strange. I would’ve expected some sort of paper had been done on this matter by Corrections by now. There might be considerable problems with a separate Maori prison though. A significant one might be if it’s located too far away from whanau?

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  April 24, 2018

      Or the issue of how Maori you have to be to go to a Maori prison?

      • Gezza

         /  April 24, 2018

        Just apply in writing I reckon, Alan. You might get lucky. Might pay to rob a dairy or something first.

        • Gezza

           /  April 24, 2018

          Does it matter Alan? Do you think being in a separate Maori-only prison would be a walk in the park? I doubt it.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  April 24, 2018

            If the inmates thought it mattered it might matter to some of them.