The Department of Corrections says today’s announcement of a 60 bed container unit at Rimutaka Prison is an important step in ensuring there are enough beds in place to accommodate rising prisoner numbers.
Chief Executive Barry Matthews says prison population forecasts show prisoner numbers are going to increase rapidly over coming years and a significant number of new beds are required.
“Given the current economic climate we need to find ways to cost effectively and quickly add significant capacity to the prison system,” says Mr Matthews
“Using containers is a cost effective and viable alternative to traditional prison construction. They are faster to build and put into operation, the cost is lower and they can easily be placed on existing sites.
“Containers are used in a number of other countries and will provide secure, basic and functional accommodation for prisoners. In fact, container accommodation will be of a comparable or better standard to that found in many existing prisons.”
Mr Matthews says the new unit will contain a mixture of single and double bunked cells and the unit will provide an opportunity to fully test the concept of using containers as accommodation within a New Zealand environment, both from a build and operating perspective and across different security classifications.
“This testing will help inform decisions on construction of similar units at other sites across the country.”
Mr Matthews says that while this new unit is significant, it does not remove the urgent need to implement increased double bunking at the new facilities next year.
“Double bunking will add approximately 1,000 beds to the prison system and will meet the immediate need for prisoner accommodation. "We cannot build these beds in time, even with the use of containers."
Mr Matthews says given the tight timeframes to construct the unit, it will not be possible to use prisoner employment to help fit out the containers, but it will provide an opportunity to investigate how prisoner employment can be used in the development of any future container based units.
Mr Matthews says the tender process will begin within the month and the new unit will be open and be in operation by March 2010.
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