Hundreds of documents briefing new Government ministers on key policies have been released. Herald journalists have been analysing the Briefings to Incoming Ministers (Bims). Here we look at Corrections.
The prison population is expected to soar to more than 12,000 by 2026, Corrections has revealed to its new minister.
At midday the Government released Briefings to Incoming Ministers following the formation of the new Government.
The briefings are from government agencies and set out the state of their business as well as historic, current and upcoming issues.
TO READ THE FULL BRIEFING, CLICK HERE
The Corrections briefing to newly-appointed Minister Kelvin Davis outlines plans to cope with an increasing population of inmates as one of the main issues facing the agency.
In October the Corrections annual report stated that, for the first time in New Zealand history, the prison population pushed past 10,000.
It currently sits at more than 10,200 and had grown by more than 700 inmates this year alone.
That figure is set to rise steadily over the next decade.
"The most recent Justice Sector Forecast (2016-2026) estimates continued growth over the next decade, with an increase in the prison population to over 12,000 by 2026," said Corrections chief executive Ray Smith in the briefing.
"The prison population has grown steadily for over 30 years, with particular periods of growth from 2002-2007 and since 2015.
"In 2016 the prison population exceeded 10,000 for the first time, and it has continued to grow since then.
"For Corrections, this has a direct consequence on our service – greater demand for prison beds requires additional supply so prisoners can continue to be managed in a safe and effective way.
"In addition to physical infrastructure, this means extra staffing, services, interventions and other resources to continue reducing the likelihood of future offending."
He said drivers of the forecast increases include:
• potential further growth in serious cases coming into the system
• increasing numbers of people being held on remand as a result of changes in the Bail Amendment Act 2013
• expected impacts from the 'three strikes' policy
• increased use of restorative justice - as some will need to remain on remand for longer while the process is completed
• new family violence legislation - new offences and more severe penalties are expected
• and additional police numbers which is expected to result in more arrests and prosecutions
Smith said in the past two years, a number of short and medium term "capacity additions" have been approved across the country through a mixture of double bunking, reconfiguration of existing buildings and small scale new builds.
This includes a new "rapid build prison" at Tongariro Prison which will boast 240 inmate beds and a further 240 beds at Rolleston Prison just outside Christchurch.
"This capacity will be in service by 2018," said Smith.
He said another 490 beds had been self-funded by Corrections through various means including the commissioning of capacity that was previously retired.
"Some of this capacity is already in service, with the rest in the process of being commissioned," Smith said.
"Construction of additional capacity at Mt Eden Correctional Facility has also been approved, providing 245 prisoner beds.
"Construction of this capacity is well under way, and is expected to come into service by the end of 2019."
He said a number of "operational enhancements to improve efficiency" through the justice system would also ease the burden on Corrections.
"Justice sector agencies have been working to ensure all parts of the justice system operate efficiently, and eliminate unnecessary barriers to community-based alternatives that can be imposed by the court or Parole Board," said Smith.
These activities included:
• investing in additional police prosecution resources to intensively case manage defendants remanded in custody to determine the most effective course of action through the court process
• engaging with newly received prisoners to canvass and facilitate EM Bail applications to the court, where safe and appropriate
• ensuring short serving prisoners, who are granted leave by the court to apply for Home Detention, are supported to make timely and appropriate resentencing applications.
Smith told the minister that Corrections had also developed a Prison Capacity Programme Business Case in 2016, which included a new facility at Waikeria which is expected to provide an additional 1500 prisoner beds.
"The new facility at Waikeria is being designed and procured with an ability to expand it to 2000 prisoner beds, if required," he said.
"A Request for Proposal for the Waikeria Prison Development PPP was released in April 2017 and Corrections is currently procuring this capacity.
"A contract is intended to be signed in April 2018, with the new facility in service in 2021."
Smith said Corrections was focused on and responding to three "critical issues".
The first - New Zealand's high - and increasing - imprisonment rate, and the impact that this is having on prison capacity.
The second was the need to significantly improve how the justice system works with Māori to improve their outcomes.
And the third issue was the significant mental health and alcohol and drug treatment needs affecting a large proportion of the people we manage.
"We do this work because, as a community, we don't want offenders coming back to the criminal justice sector," Smith said.
"We don't want them to re-offend, and that means we need to help them change whatever part of their lives led them here in the first place.
"It isn't easy, and there are long-standing challenges.
"We are all aware of the significant over-representation of Māori in all stages of the criminal justice system… We also know about the significant mental health, addiction, education and employment challenges these individuals face.
"My focus is building an organisation that has the capacity and capability to work with offenders in a safe manner and deliver on the outcomes we all want to see."
Smith said there had been a lot of progress to date, "and more to be done".
"We have the support of thousands of dedicated front-line staff who come to work each day with the goal of making New Zealand a safer place.
"I look forward to what more we can achieve together," he told the minister.