No plans to expand Whanganui Prison

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There are no plans to increase the capacity of Whanganui Prison. Photo / File
There are no plans to increase the capacity of Whanganui Prison. Photo / File

The Department of Corrections says there are no plans to expand Whanganui Prison, despite the fact it will need to accommodate more remand prisoners when New Plymouth Prison closes next month.

Corrections Services regional manager Karen Petrie said New Plymouth Prison, which was built more than 140 years ago, had "reached the end of its life" and would close in March.

"Once the prison closes, New Plymouth remand prisoners will be accommodated at Whanganui Prison," Ms Petrie said.

Sentenced prisoners from New Plymouth may be accommodated at other prisons.

"We will work hard to place prisoners in locations that match their rehabilitation, education and employment needs," she said.

At "unlock" yesterday morning, there were 522 prisoners at Whanganui Prison, which can house 529 prisoners.

"Only a small number of remand prisoners remain at New Plymouth Prison, and we are not anticipating any issue with capacity at Whanganui Prison," Ms Petrie said.

She said Whanganui Prison was well-equipped to manage New Plymouth remand prisoners and no facilities at the prison needed to be expanded as a result of New Plymouth Prison's closure.

Meanwhile, prisoners remanded in custody to Whanganui Prison with scheduled court appearances in New Plymouth will be able to stay in a 24-bed remand facility, to be managed by the Department of Corrections, within the redeveloped New Plymouth Police Station, which is due to open in August.

Remand prisoners could stay at the police station for up to five nights at a time, minimising the requirement for daily transport to and from Whanganui Prison, Ms Petrie said.

"Audiovisual facilities are also planned between Whanganui Prison and New Plymouth ... for prisoners appearing before the court on administrative matters," she said.

About 20 of 55 New Plymouth Prison employees have transferred to jobs at other prisons; five have shifted to Whanganui Prison.

Ms Petrie said the Department of Corrections was doing all it could "to ensure everyone who wants to stay with us will have a job".

The number of inmates at New Plymouth Prison, which can hold 112 prisoners, has also dwindled - from 112 in June 2012 to 24 by December 14.

Ms Petrie said "virtual visits" between Whanganui Prison and the New Plymouth Community Probation Service office would be set up so prisoners could maintain relationships with their friends and family in New Plymouth. Prisoners would be able to see and speak with their visitors via a television screen.

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