Topics: Kawe Kōrero, Prison

Penal Reform League President says Corrections CEO needs to move on

By Kawekōrero

The President of the Sir Peter Williams QC Penal Reform League says Corrections CEO Ray Smith needs to go. Lady Heeni Phillips-Williams believes the Minister of Corrections, Kelvin Davis is not being adequately prepared by Smith and his team and her concerns go far back as 2016 when Smith presented before Select Committee.

"I don't think he should be there any longer, he needs to go, he needs to move on because there were some gaps in the presentation by the Minister and I blame the CEO, or I blame those well-paid bureaucrats who are not doing their job," says Phillips-Williams.

Davis recently announced the proposed 3000-bed prison by the previous Government has been dialed back to a 500-bed rebuild at Waikeria Prison that will include 100 beds for the mentally unwell. In an interview on Kawekōrero, Phillips-Williams says while she believes the Labour Party have the Bill right, being in the top 5 of OECD countries for prison numbers is not something to be proud of.

"We should be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves having that position in the top 5, even Australia are below us but it's time for a change," says Phillip-Williams. 

The female prison population has gone up more than 56 per cent in just five years, Māori women making up around 75% of that population. 

 "The last thing we want is more and more of these huge prisons just to fill people in these prisons, and particularly Māori."

The Penal Reform League President says there are good examples of prison systems in the Netherlands who are closing the prisons down and turning them into mental health facilities, selling them off as apartments to developers, or turning them into homes for refugees. Statistics show the prison population in the Netherlands dropped by around 50% over a decade believed to be related to relaxed drug laws, a focus on rehabilitation and an electronic ankle monitor system.

"We are about 30 years behind those countries and it's time we got real and it's time we got on with it and I'm so very pleased this Labour Government is going to do that."