Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has done a swift backtrack saying he was aware of the latest prison population projections when the government made the Waikeria Prison decision.
Mr Davis had earlier told Morning Report he “hadn’t seen the forecasts” when he last month announced the decision to build a 600-bed facility at Waikeria instead of a much bigger one.
New Zealand’s prison population is being forecast to rise by more than 4000 over the next decade, according to a Ministry of Justice report. That would take the number of inmates to 14,400 by 2027.
The number of prisoners being held on remand – those awaiting trial or being held prior to sentencing – was predicted to almost double over that period to 5400. The report says that’s because of an increase in the length of time people are spending waiting for their case to go to trial.
Kelvin is caught between a rock and a mega prison.
The poorly thought out Waikeria prison has pleased no one and ended up doing nothing.
Labour couldn’t get their heads around how they would sell the new prison.
They thought if they green lit the mega prison, it would fly in the face of all their criticism of the incarceration industry.
So they produced a tiny double bunked 500 bed prison with an even smaller 100 mental health beds for an eye watering $750million.
The original 2500 bed prison was going to cost $1billion.
It now turns out the punitive nature of our underfunded judicial system will see those on remand jump to 5400 inside prison.
Remember, they haven’t been found guilty.
The surging prison numbers mean the new 500 bed prison is already full many times over before it opens.
What the Government SHOULD have done, is show some actual vision.
They should have demanded a new plan for the 2500 bed prison that created a safe environment where damaged people could get healed.
Why not build a prison for the 21st Century? Why not see the loss of liberty as the punishment and focus on providing a space where prisoners could heal, learn skills and leave incarceration as better human beings?
Currently 60% of those released reoffend within 2 years. That is an abysmal failure, the time to move away from this punitive experiment is now.
Building a prison that seeks to heal the damaged men and women exploding through our communities would send a clear message this new Government was prepared to walk the talk on prison reform.
That would have taken political courage.
Instead, we have this bullshit 500 bed prison that is costing us only $250million less than the 2500 bed option.
I mean, come on. I get everyone wasn’t expecting to actually get into Government, but you’ve been there longer than 6 months, when will Labour start stepping up?
This could have been a victory, instead it will become a screaming reminder that Labour didn’t really think this through.
Here’s what will happen.
The prisons will meet maximum capacity. Police holding cells will start being used, military prison cells will then become used, and then there will be some prison riot erupt somewhere in this double bunked cramp, underfunded, grotesquely expensive social policy of spite, and only then will we be forced to do something.
There is no justice here, just poorly thought out vengeance.