Prison population spikes by nearly 600 amid wave of ram-raids, stabbings, shootings

New figures show our prison population has increased by nearly 600 people since June last year.

It comes amid a major shortage of frontline guards which the Corrections Association says has reached crisis point.

Ram-raids, stabbings, and shootings - barely a day goes by when we don't hear about them. And it's a big driver of an increase in prisoner numbers.

"Yes we have seen it come up since June," said Corrections national commissioner Leigh Marsh.

New figures from Corrections show the number of inmates increased from 7728 in June to 8308 as of Friday. That's an extra 580 people in prison.

But Corrections said it's coping with the influx.

"We're actually built for an operational capacity of over 9000 prisoners, so this is well within our margins," Marsh said.

But prisoner advocates are worried.

"Given that increase has happened between June and now, that's exponential in our view," said Just Speak executive director Aphiphany Forward-Taua.

Prisoner numbers actually decreased at the beginning of 2022 before rising again later in the year.

Forward-Taua said prison shouldn't be the answer.

"There's options such as Te Pae Oranga for people who are participating in low-level offending, and there's options like engaging community organisations."

The ballooning prison population also comes as Corrections is trying to weather a staffing shortage.

"For us, it is absolutely a crisis," Corrections Association spokesperson Floyd du Plessis said.

The profession is short of nearly 500 frontline guards.

"The pay just isn't good for what staff face and the conditions in which they work, it's just not a good wage," du Plessis said.

"We've been doing a huge recruitment campaign that we've never done before, and we are seeing a massive amount of applications coming in, so we are heading in the right direction," Marsh said.

The Government declined Newshub's request for an interview but has already committed to a 30 percent reduction in the prison population over the next 15 years.

But with inmate numbers rising again and a shortage of prison workers, it's a long road ahead to reach that goal.