Prison Powers Reform Bill Progresses

by Editor on Tuesday, February 28, 2012 — 8:58 PM

A Corrections Act amendment bill giving prison officers wider powers has been sent to select committee after New Zealand First said it would support the “common sense’’ move.

After the dinner break MPs continued the first reading debate of the Corrections Amendment Bill.

The Bill makes changes to procedures relating to drug testing and strip searching and reforms prison health service organisation.

It allows the Corrections Department chief executive to delegate powers and functions to prison contractors and their staff, notably in the areas of approval of temporary releases and removals from prison as well as the power to assign security classifications to be given to prison managers.

Labour MP Charles Chauvel said some of the changes were reasonable, but had concerns about others.

Extended powers of search and other such things would need to be carefully balanced, he said.

Labour was also totally against the powers and duties of the head of the Corrections Department being able to delegate that authority to private prison management as they were not accountable in the same way.

Chauvel said as a result of those concerns Labour would be opposing the Bill.

National MPs said there were safeguards in places to allay Labour’s concerns.

Green MPs said they shared similar concerns to Labour and that prisons under National were dealing with a “get tough on crime approach’’ which would do nothing to reduce crime or recidivism.

NZ First said it would support the bill because it finally gave prison staff the discretion to use their powers more widely with one MP saying the Government was having a rare case of showing commonsense.

The bill was sent to the Law and Order Committee for consideration by 69 votes to 51 with National, ACT, United Future and New Zealand First supporting.

MPs began the second reading debate of theBuilding Amendment Bill (No 3).

The bill completed its second reading by 63 to 57 with National, Maori Party, ACT and United Future supporting and the House adjourned for the night.
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