Difficult to deal with huge increase in prisoner numbers

Politicians have been pandering to populist pleas for getting tough on criminals for decades, but they now face some hard decisions after the prison population has surged.

Our prisons can’t cope with the record number of prisoners, now about 10,500, and there don’t appear to be any easy or quick fixes.

Meanwhile the Government keeps delaying a decision on building a new prison, and has set up yet another working group to kick the can down the road.

Stuff: Make-shift cells in the gym, stretchers in the hallway – a broken prison system

In early May, there were 10,570 prisoners in the system; a number that fluctuates on a daily basis, due to arrests, court decisions and releases.

The population rose above 10,000 for the first time in 2016, and has continued to climb since then. It has risen more than 20 per cent since 2015.

A big part of the problem is a near doubling of the number of remand prisoners over the last five years. From 2009-2013 remand numbers ranged from 1,555-1,925, but there are now over 3,000.

While significant that is only a part of the problem. The prison population has nearly doubled over the past twenty years.

There are no easy answers.

Stuff: Govt stuck between a rock and a hard place on law and order

The Labour-led Government is caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to its big promises on law and order reform.

The Labour-led Government has promised to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent in 15 years, something Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says will take the full 15 years.

But with an almost static crime rate, that means changing the laws that have led to the spike in prisoner numbers.

An overhaul of the justice system is unlikely to be popular political move. The last thing any Government wants is to look soft on crime.

The Opposition has been applying pressure on this. Like:

It’s understood the Government plans to establish another working group, and hold a summit later in the year, ahead of announcing any major legislative changes.

Yet another working group. They will need to decide on whether to proceed with a new prison at Waikeria long before that reports back.

The Government can tinker around the edges when it comes to providing things like transitional housing for people due for parole with no place to go, but that will only slightly lighten the load on prisons.

To deliver on its promise of 30 per cent fewer prisoners, and to be the truly “transitional Government” it says it will be, bail laws, parole laws, and sentencing are all under scrutiny. But this gives its National opposition ammunition when it comes to its “soft of crime” attacks.

The Labour-led Government will either have to find a way to weather those attacks and get its coalition partners onside, or accept an out-of-control muster, and build the mega-prison none of them want.

Numbers will keep rising while the Government fiddles.


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  1. Blazer

     /  15th May 2018

    big rise under National attributed to its bail laws.
    As for the recalcitrant drunken driver,confiscating any vehicle he drove would …work.

    • Yes on bail laws, but also a big rise in prison numbers under the last labour government, and no sense of urgency from the current Government.

      “confiscating any vehicle he drove would work”

      If that could be done perhaps, but obviously it doesn’t work. It isn’t feasible to fit all vehicles with current driver’s licence detectors.

    • David

       /  15th May 2018

      Solution found from the representative of the left.
      How about having him turn up twice a day to the police station to show zero alcohol in his system for 12 months otherwise he goes to jail, that way he can carry on being a productive member of society through the dignity of work. It could be a permanent lifestyle change for this person, the coppers version of attending AA meetings.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  15th May 2018

        Good point, David.

        Confiscating his vehicle/s is unworkable. A friend’s son, his fiancee and a friend were killed when a drunk driver came around a corner on the wrong side and went into their motorcycles. The drunk was also killed. He was disqualified for previous drunk driving…and some fool lent him their van when he must have been so drunk that he could hardly stand, never mind drive. How can this sort of thing be prevented ?

        The Copper’s AA is an excellent idea.

        A young Waikato man was burdened with fines that he made no excuses for having, but now that he had pulled himself up and begun a new life, he was stll paying them off. A judge gave him so long to not have so much as a parking ticket and the fines would be wiped (he was serious about the parking or any fine for anything at all) The young man kept his side of the bargain and ‘got his life back’ as he said (or words to that effect)

  2. David

     /  15th May 2018

    If crooks keep breaking the law then they will end up in jail. Labour literally have no clue on how to address any issue, we all knew they were unprepared and just a collection of slogans but f… me they just dont seem to have the intelligence or skills to actually learn on the job and come up with anything. I think Ardern has a good heart and is a great communicator but she is a woeful leader and doesnt seem to have any expectations that her team have to earn their salaries.

  3. Zedd

     /  15th May 2018

    They could reportedly cut the prison muster, by at least 1000, by releasing those on cannabis sentences ! not to mention those on bail, in custody
    It costs about $100k/yr to keep an inmate in prison, surely would be better spent on education & rehab. (if required).. its 2018, time to ‘get with the program’ folks. The WAR on DRUGS has failed, but in Aotearoa/NZ its all hui NOT dui.. all talk but NO action !! 😦

    WAKE UP…………………… :/

    • Zedd

       /  15th May 2018

      I recently heard Nash (police minister) talking UP the Drug war rhetoric.. mostly Meth/P, but as long as cannabis is still ‘class C’ it will be included as a priority too.. NO doubt :/

    • Ray

       /  15th May 2018

      The figures don’t seem to back you up on this claim.
      “Statistics obtained from the Ministry of Justice by Family First NZ under the Official Information Act show that less than 10 people have been given a prison sentence for cannabis possession offences in each of the last three years, and that even these sentences may be ‘influenced by their previous offending history’.”
      And table 4 backs that up. There seem to be could barely be 100 in chocky for just cannabis offences in 2916

      Click to access Marijuana-imprisonments.pdf

  4. duperez

     /  15th May 2018

    We have only 18 prisons. The Government should simply decide that prisons are to be their ‘Think Big’ scheme. Double the number of prisons or double the size of the ones we have. That’s a Judith Collins’ tactic, steal her thunder. It would emphasise a tough image. (Judith announcing such would have them orgasmic on Whaleoil.)

    The Government announcing the same might even have the criticism machine running over them slightly slower.

    With Corrections staff of 8000 needing to be increased to something over 10,000, think of the new employment. Then hundreds would be needed for the new construction and of course with thousands more being locked up as well, it’s a win, win, win.

    Then too I suppose hundreds will needed to be imported to help with the building and they’d need to live somewhere so in the building industry even more activity would be generated.

    Hell, this could be Ardern’s Great Wall of Mexico. 🙃

    • Zedd

       /  15th May 2018

      what was that movie.. they built a huge wall around NY & said it was ALL a maximum security prison.. could be the next on some MPs agendas.. hopefully NOT on this Govts. ?!

      • Pickled Possum

         /  15th May 2018

        Escape from New York with a young Kurt Russell.😉

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  15th May 2018

      Prisoners are being taught to build now. Let them do at least some of the work, learn a trade and save taxpayers’ money.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  15th May 2018

        PDT, you are pathetic, you really are, Have you thought of seeking professional help ?

  5. PartisanZ

     /  15th May 2018

    The short-term answer is more prisons.

    Since there isn’t a political party alive today other than TOP with any longer term policies, I guess more prisons it shall be …

    Requirements: More inequality and iniquity to generate the crime … more police to catch the criminals … more judiciary to try, convict and sentence them … more corrections staff to monitor their incarceration …


    The long-term trend graph part way down, with records from 1950, shows a much more accurate picture than the one above in this topic’s text … with a clear, rapid increase in prison population (per 100,000) from 1985, reaching the OECD average of 114 in about 1990, then steeply rising again from 1995-ish til 2016 …

    In other words, there’s a very clear correlation between increased incarceration rates and Rogerednomics, Ruthanasia and subsequent Labour and National “management on behalf of corporate-capitalist elites” … what we loosely call the ‘neoliberal economic paradigm’ or austere-welfare-neoliberalism …

    It couldn’t be clearer … inequality and poverty breed crime … (and its a no brainer anyhow!)

  1. Difficult to deal with huge increase in prisoner numbers — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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