24 Jun 2009

Review advocates more protection for prison officers

9:18 pm on 24 June 2009

Corrections Minister Judith Collins has unveiled plans for extra training for prison officers and more equipment to deal with difficult situations in prisons.

A review by the Department of Corrections has recommended that batons, pepper spray and stab-resistant body armour be made available to prison officers.

The changes were discussed on Wednesday at Parliament's law and order select committee.

Under the plans, prison officers will receive increased tactical communications training and more personal protective equipment.

Department of Corrections chief executive Barry Matthews told the committee staff will receive three days of training a year to help them deal with difficult situations.

Ms Collins told the select committee she proposed improving access to drug and alcohol treatment in prison.

Ms Collins told the committee there were issues around finding enough qualified people to work in the drug and alcohol area, but she would be speaking to the Ministers of Health and Education about training more people.

Union concerned staff may be hurt

The biggest prison officers' union says its members do not want to be armed with batons and pepper spray.

Corrections Association president Beven Hanlon says the department's offer of more protective equipment is conditional.

Mr Hanlon said an email was sent to all prison staff on Wednesday morning saying they would only get the safety equipment if they agreed to inmates sharing cells, or double-bunking.

He says officers do not want batons because they can be turned against them.