Help wanted: Govt looks abroad to cope with prisoner numbers

hand in jail

Corrections is launching an ambitious recruitment campaign to cope with the rising prison population.

It aims to attract 600 new recruits to the job by next September - triple the number of new officers it would usually recruit in a year.

"We've had an increase in population in a number of the different prisons around the country and obviously when you increase beds you need officers to run them," says Corrections recruitment manager Andy Langley.

It's looking offshore to fill 100 roles, targeting officers from Australia and the UK.

"The reason we're going overseas is because we need experienced Corrections officers to work in some of our prisons," says Mr Langley.

In particular, Mt Eden Prison which is being transitioned back to Corrections management from Serco following the fight club revelations.

But Labour's Corrections spokesman Kelvin Davis says it should only be recruiting in New Zealand.

"I think it's just plain dumb. When we've got hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who are unemployed or underemployed, why do they have to go overseas?"

Corrections Minister Judith Collins says there has already been a lot of interest from the UK.

"I've just recently been in the UK and went around one of their prisons and people were asking me about New Zealand. There's plenty of people wanting to come and work in Corrections in New Zealand."

Ms Collins is unapologetic about the rising prison population, a result of a large increase in the remand population because of changes to the Bail, Sentencing and Victim's Rights Act. 

"We've got people who can't get bail because of methamphetamine or family violence and this Government's not going to suddenly let a whole lot of methamphetamine cooks out on bail because it's a bit inconvenient."

She says this recruitment drive's about planning for the future, and prisons aren't currently understaffed.

The prison population hit a record high of 9000 last year, and is expected to rise to 10,000 by next year.