Christchurch Men’s Prison reaches “operational capacity”

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Oct 10, 2023 |

Christchurch’s Men’s Prison has reached its ‘operational capacity,’ requiring the transfer of high-security offenders to other correctional facilities.

As widely reported, Corrections is managing ongoing staffing pressures, including at Christchurch Men’s Prison.

There are 944 beds at the site, but based on the availability of staff, the current operational capacity is 786.

Correction National Commissioner Leigh Marsh said “when fewer staff are available, we must make very difficult operational decisions – prisoners may spend less time unlocked, or we may temporarily reduce the number of prisoners that a site can accommodate and divert prisoners to other prisons.

“We made an operational decision to transfer six prisoners from Christchurch Men’s Prison to Otago Corrections Facility, which has spare operational capacity, over the weekend.

“We will be transferring another eight prisoners tomorrow and a further eight on Thursday.

“This is not uncommon and is part of our routine prisoner movements. We’ve been carrying out movements of prisoners from CMP to OCF weekly, as part of our ongoing prison network reconfiguration which has been happening for about a year now.”

Marsh said “the prisoners that we are moving are remand and high security prisoners, who are required to be managed in high security accommodation.

“In October 2022 Corrections closed three high security units at Christchurch Men’s Prison as they were over 100 years old and unable to safely meet the needs of people in prison or provide a suitable and safe working environment for our staff.

“This change means that high security prisoners (including people on remand) are primarily accommodated at Otago Corrections Facility, which was opened in 2007.

“We also had one remand prisoner held in police cells over the weekend. If someone needs to be in custody, we work with police to make sure this happens.

“This can mean transferring prisoners between prisons to free up accommodation, or working with police to temporarily hold people in Police cells. Holding people in Police cells is not common and we always ensure prisoners are not accommodated in Police holding cells for longer than absolutely necessary.

“In recent years we have seen a decrease in the number of sentenced prisoners we are managing nationally.

However there has been an increase in the remand population, which has driven an increase in the overall prison population on remand. In May 2023, 44% of the prison population were on remand. Addressing delays across the court system remains a continued focus of the justice sector.”

Marsh said “transferring prisoners between sites ensures we keep our staff safe and can continue to ensure that people in prison are provided with their minimum entitlements and can participate in activities such as rehabilitation programmes.” 

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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