Triple-bunking won't happen, says Corrections Minister

The Corrections Minister says prisoners won't be forced into triple-bunking or sleeping in vans because prison numbers are finally going down.

Kelvin Davis also told Newshub Nation for the same reason, he's not worried a shipment of pop-up cells to help ease pressure on our overcrowded prisons haven't arrived on time.

The 360 pop-up cells, being built in China, were ordered by the previous National Government and supposed to be here in February. Finance Minister Grant Robertson's first Budget earlier this year allocated nearly $200 million for 600 more, expected to be ready by the end of 2019.

"We had trouble in March - we were looking really shaky in terms of extra capacity," Mr Davis told Newshub Nation on Saturday. "We've now… got 1000 spare beds. What matters is that we're making the prison system safer, better."

That's because he says since March, the prison population has fallen by 600.

"The prison forecast had us about 11,500 by the end of the year. We're now at 10,200. Since March the prison population has reduced from 10,800…

"This time last year under the previous Government there was no way on Earth they would entertain the thought it was possible to reduce the prison population, and we've said we'll do it and we've started on it."

The advice that prisoners may end up sleeping in vehicles and triple-bunking was based on projections under the previous National Government, Mr Davis said.

"We're actually defying the odds, we're defying the forecast, defying the projections, and the prison population is actually reducing and we're doing it safely… The way the prison population is going down now, we won't need those extreme measures."

Much of that is down has been credited to Corrections' high impact innovation programme, which is "focused on moving people through the criminal justice pipeline faster", by speeding up court appearances and reducing delays in getting bail.

Mr Davis says reaching the long-term target of a 30 percent reduction however will take much longer, and require more than just speeding the wheels of justice.

"I've said to Corrections, put your thinking caps on and come up with the list of ideas that are going to see the prison population continue to go down. But we are under no illusion that to reduce the prison population by 30 percent over 15 years is going to take all of those 15 years, and we've made a really good start."

Kelvin Davis.
Kelvin Davis. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

This week's justice summit was attended by Mr Davis, Police Minister Stuart Nash, Justice Minister Andrew Little and hundreds of others. Dismissed by the Opposition as a talk-fest, Mr Davis says it's proved fruitful.

"They've produced tons of ideas basically and the data needs to be crunched. We'll be going through that over the coming weeks, and we'll be looking at what the people of New Zealand are actually saying that can help us to improve the whole justice system."

One of the Government's efforts to combat crime - to put another 1800 cops on the beat - has been predicted to increase the prison population by making it more likely criminals will be caught. Mr Nash rejected this advice, and Mr Davis seems to agree with his colleague.

"We've managed to defy the projections and we're 1000 below where we're told they would be… If there's a preventative approach to policing, it may not happen."

Newshub Nation.

Watch Newshub Nation 9:30am Saturday/10am Sunday on TV3, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.