Brown: National launches plan to curb prison violence

Reports show that this year not only were multiple officers punched by prisoners, one was stabbed with an improvised weapon, and another had hot water thrown at their face, says Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown. Photo RNZ

A proposed National Party plan to better protect prison staff would include trialling the use of tasers.

National’s Corrections spokesperson Simeon Brown says the party won’t sit idly by “while the violence in our prisons and the number of assaults on corrections officers continues to increase”.

National yesterday launched a five point plan to help reduce the violence experienced in our prisons.

“Under Labour there has been a 92 per cent increase on prisoner assaults on corrections officers and a 30 per cent increase in prisoner on prisoner assaults,” says Brown, the MP for Pakuranga.

“Reports show that this year not only were multiple officers punched by prisoners, one was stabbed with an improvised weapon and another had hot water thrown at their face. The number of corrections officers requiring medical treatment from assaults has increased by an alarming 80 since 2017.

“Clearly our prisons are a dangerous work environment, we should be doing all we can to make sure the safety of our corrections officers is prioritised, and those who assault corrections officers are held to account.”

National’s plan includes:

·         Requiring mandatory reporting of assaults to Police

·         Reforming the disciplinary regime

·         Creating a frontline safety improvement programme

·         Making sure PPE is fit for purpose

·         Trialling the use of tasers

“The National Party backs our corrections staff and wouldn’t tolerate assaults in our prisons. We’ve put together a plan that will go some way to reducing the amount of violence being experienced in our prisons.

“Our corrections officers put their lives in danger every day, we owe it to them to make sure their workplace is as safe as possible.”

Meanwhile, Darroch Ball, co-leader of Sensible Sentencing Trust, says National’s ‘five-point plan’ to curb the rise in inmates assaulting prison officers doesn’t go far enough and continues to ignore the Corrections Association’s plea for the introduction of harsher penalties.

“Although National’s Corrections spokesperson Simeon Brown has tabled a plan that is moving in the right direction, it still hasn’t taken the biggest, most effective step, which would be to promise to bring in harsher sentences for these attacks,” says Ball.

“Without a plan to come down hard on these attackers, having more police prosecutions will do nothing but create more paperwork.

“Corrections Association President Alan Whitley has continuously pointed out the desperate need for these offenders to be held to account and for adequate sentences to act as deterrents.

“The obvious frustration comes when inmates who bash officers either don’t get prosecuted, end up with pathetically weak sentences or have those sentences ridiculously being served concurrently.

“National’s plan to reform the internal disciplinary regime, improve frontline safety, and review PPE suitability are steps in the right direction – but will do very little to curb the serious assaults our corrections officers are facing.

“The suggestion to trial tasers would only be for specialist teams and not for general issue – which would obviously be of little help for random violent attacks on frontline officers.”

“National has a chance to show a clear alternative plan, but this entire ‘five-point’ plan just has a Labour-like hue to it.”