Influence of gangs in prisons rising, exclusive figures show

Source: 1News

The influence of gangs in prison is skyrocketing, with exclusive figures obtained by 1 NEWS showing those on remand have hit record numbers.

Critics argue prisons are aiding gang recruitment.

“It's a breeding ground for gangs and we've lost control of our prisons,” Darroch Ball from Sensible Sentencing Trust said.

Remand, for people who haven't yet been convicted or sentenced, is a major problem area.

Mongrel Mob affiliates account for the largest number in remand.

In June 2011, 326 people on remand had gang links, that's 18 per cent.

However this year, it's almost 1300, a whopping 41 per cent of the remand population.

“When you've got people being put into remand for months on end that is totally dominated by gang members, different gangs, there is no doubt that they're going to be recruited,” Ball said.

Corrections agrees it's a problem.

“They'll be in those units together talking to each other, mixing with each other, and we know that gangs can be quite nefarious in those places,” Neil Beales, the chief custodial officer for Corrections NZ, said.

Gang members make up almost 40 percent of New Zealand's prison population.

Corrections have identified 47 different gangs in New Zealand prisons.

In remand, Mongrel Mob and Black Power account for the largest numbers.

There are also more than 100 Killer Beez and Crips and dozens of the new Australian gangs, The Comancheros and Rebels.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says wardens do their best to keep gang members separate from other inmates, but “there’s always movements of prisoners between units”.

Some gangs have reportedly been given their own wing or dedicated units on remand to keep them separate.

Corrections admit even that has its problems and each prison is different.