4 Dec 2023

Corrections minister confident jails will be properly staffed

From Checkpoint, 5:12 pm on 4 December 2023
Kohuora Auckland South Corrections Facility, a SERCO run high security men’s prison located at Wiri, in Auckland.

File image. Photo: RNZ / Sam Olley

The country's jails will be properly staffed and able to take on as many prisoners as needed as the government gets tough on crime, Minister of Corrections Mark Mitchell says.

Government coalition deals promised increased funding to Corrections to ensure there is "sufficient prison capacity as required".

Right now Corrections is short about 370 prison officers, despite an intensive recruitment campaign: Mount Eden Jail is 62  staff short and Rimutaka Prison is down 68 prison officers. 

Staffing shortages mean the country's 18 jails only have the use of about 9250 beds, despite having about 11,000 between them.

Mark Mitchell

Mark Mitchell  Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The new government is drafting new legislation to ban gang patches and stop gang members gathering public places, as part of its first 100 day work programme. 

Corrections minister Mark Mitchell said the draft laws would go through a select committee process rather than being put through under urgency. 

But modelling showed there could be 300 to 400 hundred more prisoners in the next 12 months, he said. 

Speaking to Checkpoint he said the recruitment campaign was working and was a "success", with the positions being filled at a good rate and he was confident the department would get the staff it needed. 

"There's a very high level of confidence within Corrections - and I've got confidence in them. 

"We're going to continue with that recruitment drive and trying to attract Kiwis into what is fundamentally a very important job - one that doesn't always get the public recognition that it deserves. They play a critical part in terms of public safety and of course we're going to try and attract as many good candidates as we can."

Staff retention was also improving: "The amount of officers leaving is starting to reduce," Mitchell said.

The spare beds were "capacity in the system", but he acknowledged there was the potential to get closer to being able to use the total of 11,000 beds.