Today the Government announced that ‘prison capacity’ will be increased by about 1800 beds on existing sites.
Stuff says it will cost $1 billion: 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.
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”.
Government claims crime is reducing and reoffending rates have reduced by 7% so is this all due to longer sentences? Or what?
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.”
Fewer crimes but more serious crimes, so longer sentences.
NZ Herald puts the cost at $2.5 billion – Tax cuts could be affected by $2.5b plan for more prison beds
The booming prison population will hit the Government’s books by an extra $2.5 billion over about five years – with Finance Minister Bill English saying it will “limit choices” about other spending.
The $1.8 billion surplus announced last week is just for one year.
Asked if the outlay could reduce possible tax cuts, English said, “it will have an impact because it’s a very large spend”.
“I wouldn’t want to judge that because it is a bit early. But certainly spending this kind of money on prison capacity is going to reduce other options.
“This is something that has to be done…we’d certainly prefer to be in a position where this wasn’t happening.”
Not surprisingly there has been a lot of criticism of money having to go into prison beds rather than hospital beds and other comparisons,
Government media release:
The Government has approved plans to increase prison capacity on existing prison sites by approximately 1800 beds, Corrections Minister Judith Collins says.
Despite significant progress in reducing crime the number of prisoners has increased faster than projected. This is because the proportion of offenders charged with serious crimes has risen, meaning more people are being remanded in custody and serving more of their sentences in prison.
“We have to respond through new investment or we will create unacceptable safety risks for staff, prisoners and the public, and be less effective at rehabilitating prisoners.
“We’re already adding 341 prisoner places through the use of double bunking and converting facilities to accommodate prisoner beds. This is part of the financial commitment we made in Budget 2016 to Phase One of the Prison Capacity Programme, but as we look out over the next five years this will not be enough.
“To meet the growth in the prison population we need to invest in a further 1800 prisoner places in the network under Phase Two of the Programme, at a construction cost of around $1 billion.”
The Government has approved an increase in double bunking in the Northland Region Corrections Facility at Ngawha by 80 beds. It has also approved a new accommodation block to be built at Mt Eden Corrections Facility, adding 245 beds.
Ministers will next month consider a detailed business case for formal approval of a new 1500 bed facility at the existing Waikeria Prison in the Waikato. 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.
“Phase Two of the prison programme won’t be just in bricks and mortar but will also be aimed at the drivers of crime, drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence.”
The new facility at Waikeria Prison will be operated by Corrections but built and maintained by a Public Private Partnership, the same model currently being used by Corrections in building its new maximum security facility in the grounds of Auckland Prison.
“The construction of a new facility for around 1500 prisoners at Waikeria which could be delivered in two stages – would be a significant contribution to ensuring that Corrections can accommodate the forecast numbers of prisoners.”
Most of the forecast demand is expected to come from the upper North Island and Waikeria is in a good location to serve this demand. Being close to the areas of need reduces the costs of operating the prison network and helps keep prisoners close to family and support networks.
The Government is committed to ensuring value for money for taxpayers and all the proposed beds are on prison land where a lot of the infrastructure is already in place.
At Mt Eden Corrections Facility the earthworks platform already exists for the new structure. The current development was built with future expansion a possibility, and at Waikeria Prison there’s ample space for a facility to hold the increased number of prisoners.
“Getting this proposal underway now will help ensure the growth is well planned, and that the prison network can help keep our communities safe in the future.”