Justice Minister Andrew Little: 'What I saw in Waikeria Prison horrified me'

Justice Minister Andrew Little has indicated he may not be averse to demolishing Waikeria Prison and rebuilding it.

When asked about plans for the prison on Newshub Nation on Saturday morning, Mr Little said: "The existing Waikeria Prison was built for a different time and is frankly unfit for purpose."

He said he was "frankly horrified" by what he saw when visiting the prison and reform was needed.

"You have to ask yourself whether this is a place where someone can go from being bad to being good."

Prison populations are projected to soar to over 12,000 by 2026, but he would not commit to saying larger prisons were the answer.

The Government has pledged to drop the prison population by 30 percent over 15 years, and Mr Little says the focus should be on rehabilitation, not incarceration.

"You have to look at over 30 years of justice reform, which has lead to more people being criminalised, more people being sentenced to prison, serving longer sentences, is that doing anybody any good?"

"A large chunk of the people going into prison have a whole bunch of other problems that if fixed, might stop them going into prison in the first place."

Mr Little says a "systemic" approach addressing early intervention and prisoner education would be part of planned reform.

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