Prison inmate numbers hit all-time high in New Zealand

Some of our prisons are close to overflowing, with the number of those behind bars hitting an all-time high this week. 

Inmate numbers topped out at more than 10,700 - a record number - and it's expected to climb further, with projections due to hit 12,000 inmates in the next four years.

The Department of Corrections has been forced to use more than 200 beds at Rimutaka Prison that are supposed to be reserved in case inmates need to be transferred in a disaster, like an earthquake.

The Department says it has space for about 300 more prisoners nationwide and is currently building additional capacity, but those projects aren't finished yet. 

Newshub has discovered, with some of our jails, if prisoner numbers breach maximum capacity by 3 percent, the department will have to pay all staff an extra $35 dollars a shift.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis said the prison system is under "real pressure".

But Labour hasn't yet decided whether it will go ahead with National's plan to build a new 1500-2000 bed facility at Waikeria in Waikato.

It expects to decide by next month.

Personally, Mr Davis says he doesn't want to build it, but he may be forced to, given these numbers.