Topic: Prison

Offenders on bracelets to return to prison if no cellphone coverage

By Dean Nathan

Labour MP Kelvin Davis is concerned offenders with electronic bracelets who live outside cellphone coverage areas will be sent to prison.  The Department of Corrections says, if an offender proposes an address where there is no cell phone coverage, it will be deemed as unsuitable.

Jail could be on the cards for this offender awaiting court sentence because they reside in an area where there's no cellphone coverage.

Home Detention with electronic monitoring applies to offenders with a prison sentence of two years or less.  Corrections says if there's no address for offenders to stay at in an area where there's cellphone coverage, it's highly likely they'll be sent to prison. 

MP Tai Tokerau Kelvin Davis says, "We will see more Māori going to jail due to these types of laws.  I think it needs to be reversed to accommodate for those who only have landlines."

Corrections says security response staff have been placed in threatening situations and, due to insufficient cell phone coverage, have been unable to call emergency services.

Pauline Hopa from Te Ara Poutama Aotearoa says, "They're unable to contact us or emergency services if they are outside of cellphone coverage.  That's the crux of the change to the previous law.  Of utmost importance to the Department of Corrections is the safety of our staff at all time in all places."

In a statement to Kelvin Davis, Corrections said there remains some areas of the country (such as the far north) where the lack of cell phone coverage continues to be an issue.  

In these locations it is unable to operate a home detention scheme. 

Of the 1600 offenders on home detention, 35 will be affected. 

Corrections says it has always been their practice to encourage staff to work with offenders to come up with alternative addresses.

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