PAPA protest Waikēria Prison expansion

By Moana Makapelu Lee
  • Waikato/Bay of Plenty

Prisoner advocacy group People against Prisons Aotearoa (PAPA) are opposing Government plans to build a new 500-bed high-security prison in Waikēria. Today protesters rallied outside of Parliament.

Over fifty protesters came together to object to new expansions to Waikēria Prison. Criminology professor Dr. Liam Martin says, "Building prisons has virtually no measurable impact on crime, so the idea that building the prison at Waikēria was a solution I think is misguided and that's something I don't accept."

The protests come following the Government's announcement of plans to build a 500-bed prison facility at Waikēria that would include a mental health facility, with an additional 100-beds. Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says, "There's no doubt that our prison population is increasing and so, for now, we need a new prison to house those inmates." 

Prisoner advocates say Government should look at reforms to bail and parole. Dr. Martin says, "We've seen a huge increase in the people who are remanded in custody while they wait to go before a judge, at the other end parole: we've seen people serving much larger proportions of their sentences now than in the past."

"The research is very clear that prisons don't work and it's a very attractive myth, it seems like a common sense thing that if you lock away the bad guys in a prison it will keep us safe but we know from history and experience that that's just not true."

However, the Minister says Government are committed to decreasing the 10,000 male and female prison population. 

"Our goal is to have reduced inmate numbers by 30% within the next five years so I believe in the current expansion."

New Zealand has built six prisons in the last 20 years.