Can't blame Kelvin Davis for Corrections' mistake - Willie Jackson

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis can't be blamed for offensive letters the alleged Christchurch gunman was able to send out of prison, says fellow Labour MP Willie Jackson.

Davis has been under fire from the Opposition since it emerged the prisoner, being held at Auckland Prison in Paremoremo, was allowed to send a letter to a supporter in Russia, including a call-to-action. 

On Thursday Newshub revealed others behind bars have also been able to send hate-filled letters to people on the outside.

Corrections Association president Alan Whitby says the current rules only allow for prison officers to "scan" a letter, and if they catch anything suspicious, forward it to a manager for a closer look.

"They need to change the legislation to allow us to read the letters, to make sure letters containing threats to anybody aren't going out from prison," he told Newshub on Friday, dismissing concerns from legal experts this would breach prisoners' rights.

"The person sending the letter had the choice not to come to prison in the first place, so they know what happens when they get there."

Corrections has since said the accused Christchurch gunman would be prevented from sending or receiving mail at all for the time being, raising concerns from high-profile Wellington barrister Graeme Edgeler, who told Newsroom he had a statutory right to "unhindered correspondence with MPs and official agencies...and with legal advisers on legal matters".

"They're entitled to look closely at every bit of mail he sends. They're not entitled to ignore the content of the letters and decide he can't send them anyway," Edgeler told the site.

National Corrections spokesperson David Bennett said there's no need for a law change - prison staff are just going soft because of a "culture" promoted by Davis, who has made it his mission to focus on rehabilitation and bring down prison numbers.

"What they're trying to do at the moment is just a smokescreen to cover their inadequacies over the last couple of days. We shouldn't be fooled by that. The reality is they've got a job to do, and they haven't been doing it," Bennett told Newshub. 

"[Davis is] making it a holiday camp for prisoners, and they're responding. That culture is what we're seeing come through in the letters and the abuse of the system."

Jackson said both Davis and Corrections CEO Christine Stevenson have apologised, and it's time to move on.

"He's fessed up on this. He's talked to his staff. There have been apologies everywhere. Sometimes things happen. He's basically said, along with the Prime Minister, it shouldn't have happened. It won't happen again. They're moving on."

He accused National of "bringing politics into it" when it was a staff issue.

"They should have stopped it and we're all agreed on that... [Davis is] not sitting there okaying it... you can't blame the minister. You can't just get everybody to resign... It's not about taking them out all the time."

Kelvin Davis.
Kelvin Davis. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

National MP and former Corrections Minister Judith Collins said she could absolutely blame the minister.

"Kelvin sets the culture of the organisation. He's the head of it... Has he set now a new standard of being all soft and cuddly and wanting to hug criminals all the time? Is that what it is? Or is it just that Corrections stuffed up?"

She said some prisoners "do need to be in jail and the key thrown away, and I can think of one that we're talking about right now".

She backed Bennett's view that there is no need to change the rules around reading prisoners' letters.

"Was this letter opened by Corrections? Did they look at it? Did they read it? What did they read? Did they read hateful 'let's go after people who don't look like us'? They absolutely could stop it. That's why they have the right to read it - is to stop it."



Contact Newshub with your story tips: