Waikeria Prison expansion is ‘unfortunately’ needed and Government is ignoring the reality of high inmate numbers – Simon Bridges

Source: 1News

National leader Simon Bridges said this morning the yet to be approved Waikeria prison is "unfortunately" in desperate need - and his years as a Crown prosecutor revealed to him why.

Speaking on TVNZ 1's Breakfast today, Mr Bridges said while Justice Minister Andrew Little's ambition to reduce the prison population by a third was "laudible", it was driven by a "philosophical" stance that ignores the reality of New Zealand's inmate numbers.

"The way Andrew Little's talking about doing this is by softening up the bail laws, the sentencing laws, the parole laws," Mr Bridges said.

"I think that just makes our communities less safe, so that's why we said, with the prison population what it's doing, you do need this new prison. We (the former National government) were funding it."

"Unfortunately, no one likes more prisons but they need to build another one, a significant one."

The National Party leader also pointed out the safety of prisoners and prison officers working in "potentially inhumane conditions", was at stake if they continued in the small, century old Waikeria prison facilities as they stand.

The Labour-led Government is yet to approve an expansion to Waikeria Prison in Waikato, which would see it grow from 1250-beds to 3000.

Mr Bridges also said calls for the Bail Amendment Act 2013 to be repealed, as the country's prison population swelled to over 10,000 in 2017, was not a reasonable solution to reducing inmate numbers.

"I'm a Crown prosecutor by trade, I've done hundreds of cases, and what I can tell you is it's very hard, if you want to put it this way, to get into jail, right," he said.

"You have to do serious violence, serious drug dealing, or very serious sexual offending. 

"I think you do have to send your most serious offenders to jail. That's where we're at with the law at the moment, I don't support softening that up."