New prison beds expensive 'ambulance at bottom of cliff'

Author
Sam Carran ,
Section
National,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 19 October 2016, 5:23AM
A criminal defence lawyer believes the Government spending $1 billion on about 1800 new prison beds is like spending a fortune on the ambulance at the bottom of the social cliff (Stockxchng)

UPDATED 10.27am: A criminal defence lawyer believes the Government spending $1 billion on about 1800 new prison beds is like spending a fortune on the ambulance at the bottom of the social cliff.

Whangarei barrister Kelly Ellis has been dealing with criminal issues and cases for 25 years, and said this seems like an extraordinarily bad spend when the money could be better spent on social issues that often lead to crime and imprisonment.

LISTEN ABOVE: Corrections Minister Judith Collins speaks to Mike Hosking

Ms Ellis said it doesn't make sense to put the money in this area when it costs $100,000 a year to house a prisoner.

"Many people are saying to be spending money on housing for people out in the community rather than effectively warehousing people in prisons."

However, the Corrections Minister Judith Collins argues you can't criticise the fact we have to buy new beds for prisons - if you want offenders put away.

She told Mike Hosking a lot of this is down to remand places.

"We changed the law in 2014 around getting bail, and we said that violent offenders should not be getting bail like they had been, and nor should methamphetamine cooks and suppliers."

She said that had added "about an extra 1800 - 2000 beds."

Kelly Ellis said the increased double bunking in prisons will just make them a far more dangerous place.

As part of the 1800 new beds for prisoners, they have approved 80 double bunking beds in Northland's Region Corrections Facility at Ngawha as well as a further 341 double bunking places to existing prisons.

Ms Ellis said prison is an environment where you cannot complain about what goes on so there is no protection against potential attacks.

"One person is inevitably stronger than the other and terrible terrible things do not even bear thinking about. The worst nightmares, for many people, go on there."

But Judith Collins isn't worried about double bunking in prisons. She said 40 percent of our prison cells are already double bunked.

"The fact is if people want to commit these sorts of crimes, they have to understand they're not always going to get the luxury accommodation they might like."

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