'We don't want to see people dying in prison' - Key on terminally ill prisoner

Vicki Letele (Supplied)
Vicki Letele (Supplied)

The family of a terminally ill prisoner has been encouraged to continue the fight for her compassionate release after positive comments from the Prime Minister.

Vicki Letele has been in Wiri women's prison since March this year.  She was sentenced to three years and two months imprisonment for fraud after using forged documents to allow low-income families to obtain home loans.

Letele was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer in September and her family is pleading for her to be released early so she can spend her final months at home.

She isn't eligible for parole until April 2017.

Her family wants her parole hearing brought forward on compassionate grounds, and claim the jail isn't equipped to properly treat her. Their application has been denied.

Today Prime Minister John Key told media the decision rests with the Parole Board but that he would have thought "we're a pretty compassionate country."

"We do need to take on-board the criminal activity that the person's undertaken but I think we don't want to see people dying in prison - if it's on compassionate grounds reasonable that they could be returned home," says Mr Key.

Vicki Letele became so sick she was admitted to Middlemore Hospital in Auckland last week.  She spent six days there - with a prison guard only metres away at all times.

She's undergoing chemotherapy and went back to prison on Wednesday.

Today Letele was visited by her uncle Ula as well as her mother Tui.

"A prison is a prison.  It's not geared up to be a hospital. The more time that goes by, the less opportunity she has to say goodbye to her partner and children," says Ula Letele.

The Department of Corrections is now reviewing the case.

"If you look at history, history tells you that where someone has a terminal illness and is in prison, it's not unusual for the Parole Board - on compassionate grounds - to release that person," says Mr Key.


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