More than 10,000 be­hind bars for first time

The New Zealand Herald - - NEWS - Anna Leask

The pri­son pop­u­la­tion has in­creased by 700 this year — enough to fill a brand new medium-sized pri­son.

For the first time the to­tal has ex­ceeded 10,000. More than 10,200 in­mates are held in 18 pris­ons.

“We have been ag­ile enough to rapidly in­crease our ca­pac­ity to ac­com­mo­date of­fend­ers,” said Cor­rec­tions chief ex­ec­u­tive Ray Smith’s re­port. “But we have also in­creased our over­all ca­pa­bil­ity, re­cruit­ing new staff and de­vel­op­ing our peo­ple to be able to man­age and bet­ter sup­port the of­fend­ers in our care.”

Smith said the de­part­ment had hired more than 1000 new front­line staff. “We’ve brought more ex­per­tise in-house with roles such as coun­sel­lors, so­cial work­ers, men­tal health work­ers, com­mu­nity en­gage­ment and rein­te­gra­tion ad­vis­ers and work bro­kers.”

He also re­vealed there was only one un­nat­u­ral death in pri­son in the 2016/17 year — a sui­cide.

“Al­though one death is still one more than any of us would want, it is im­por­tant to note that this is a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in un­nat­u­ral deaths in pri­son, down from 11 in the pre­vi­ous year.”

There were no break­outs or es­capes for the third year run­ning.

“There were five es­capes from es­cort from the ap­prox­i­mately 62,500 move­ments we man­aged in 2016/17,” said Smith. “All five of these peo­ple were ap­pre­hended and re­turned to cus­tody.”

When it came to con­tra­band, he said, Cor­rec­tions had “suc­cess­fully re­duced prisoner access”.

“Each pri­son has de­vel­oped de­tec­tion plans and our de­tec­tor dog teams play an im­por­tant role in keep­ing pris­ons free from con­tra­band.

“This fi­nan­cial year, we con­ducted al­most 4500 ran­dom drug tests on pris­on­ers. The per­cent­age of those test­ing neg­a­tive con­tin­ues to be above our target of 95 per cent, with 96.4 per cent re­turn­ing clean re­sults.”

The re­port showed there were 1500 “non-se­ri­ous” as­saults on in­mates and staff in 2016/17.

“On oc­ca­sion, in­ci­dents can re­sult in a se­ri­ous in­jury and this fi­nan­cial year there have been 25 se­ri­ous prisoner-on-prisoner as­saults — the low­est in four years — and 22 se­ri­ous prisoner-on-staff as­saults recorded.

“These mea­sures re­port the num­ber of assault vic­tims, not the num­ber of in­ci­dents. There was a to­tal of 13 se­ri­ous prisoner-on-staff in­ci­dents, re­sult­ing in 22 vic­tims.”

Gang-af­fil­i­ated pris­on­ers were re­spon­si­ble for nearly two-thirds of as­saults de­spite be­ing about one-third of the pri­son pop­u­la­tion.

Smith said re­of­fend­ing had been fall­ing for six years, with 28 per cent fewer re­of­fend­ers in the sys­tem than in 2011.

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