Minister of Corrections Kelvin Davis says there is no need to release low risk prisoners during the COVID-19 crisis "because we have the capacity at the moment, we have a buffer".
"The work that we've done to make sure we do have the capacity has been very successful," he told Three's The Hui.
Nearly 10,000 New Zealanders are currently serving sentences across 19 different prisons, with 32 percent of the prison population double-bunking,
Other countries have already begun the process of releasing low-risk prisoners, but New Zealand has not followed suit.
Davis told The Hui it's not a matter for Corrections, it's "the courts or the parole boards, they're the ones who make the decision"
"My job as the Minister of Corrections is to make sure we keep everybody safe."
All visits from whānau, lawyers and volunteers have been suspended, and new inmates are held in isolation for 14 days.
Davis says 12 prisoners have been tested for COVID-19, with all returning negative results.
He paid tribute to Corrections staff, who are an essential service saying they had done a "fantastic job" of managing the safety of prisoners during the lockdown.
Watch the video for the full interview.