Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis blasts National's proposed law and order policy

National's latest policy proposal on law and order isn't going down well with the Corrections Minister, who's describing it as a "mishmash of random ideas".

Kelvin Davis, Corrections Minister and Labour's deputy leader, told Newshub he thinks the National Party is too focussed on "old ideas" instead of "structural change".

"What we're doing is working, and what I've seen of the National plan is focusing on a few ad hoc, mishmash ideas and not looking at structural change which is what is really necessary."

National is proposing several changes if elected in 2020, including the creation of a specialised police taskforce to crack down on gangs, similar to New South Wales' 'Strike Force Raptor' unit established in 2009.

The Opposition also wants to ban gang patches in public places, revoke parole for people who associate with gangs, create tougher sentences for violent gang crime and give more search powers to police.

Davis said the Government's goal has been to "create a safe and effective justice system" and he thinks they've been "very effective in achieving that" so far.

He pointed to the $98m allocated in Budget 2019 for a Māori-focused prison initiative focused on mental health support, expanded rehab services, housing transition support, employment services and community engagement 

"We've invested a lot in a whole heap of areas around rehabilitation and mental health, drug and alcohol addiction services."

Davis also mentioned how the police force has grown to the largest it's ever been with the number of Māori police officers exceeding 1000 for the first time, and the overall number of police expected to surpass 14,000 by 2020.

The Government has a goal of reducing the prison population by 30 percent in 15 years, and reducing Māori incarceration - though it hasn't yet set a specific reduction target for the latter.

Corrections' approach to prison reform has been blasted by the Opposition as too soft, which was highlighted earlier this week when it was revealed the department would start referring to prisoners as "men in our care".

"This is absurd; I think it shows the Government is full of woke, PC types who are soft on crime," National leader Simon Bridges told Newshub at the time. "The reality is prisoners are prisoners for a reason."

Bridges is fashioning National as the "party of law and order".

If he becomes Prime Minister in 2020, youth offenders could have their convictions wiped at the age of 18 only if they meet a list of criteria, including passing NCEA Level 2.

"People who have NCEA Level 2 are more likely to go on to lead better lives and are less likely to commit further crimes," National's Corrections spokesperson David Bennett said.

Davis told Newshub forcing prisoners to do things they don't want to do won't help, and that it could even "endanger staff and other motivated prisoners".

"Any sort of force and coercion may have the opposite effect to what you want.... I think they haven't really thought things through... [National] does go for the little sound bites rather than well-thought-out policy."

David also pushed back on David Bennett's assertion that "parole is not a right" but a "privilege".

"If you have committed a crime and you are sentenced to prison you shouldn't rely on early release unless you've done the hard yards to deserve it," Bennett said.

Davis said the distribution of parole is up to the parole board that makes their decisions "based on the information provided to them".

"Our jobs as a Government and Corrections' job is to make sure they have the right information in front of them in a timely manner so they can make the right and the best decision."

As for whether gang members should be able to wear patches in public, Davis said: "Just random picking on various groups in society isn't going to change the whole system and that's what we're trying to do."