29 Feb 2012

Corrections Amendment Bill passes first reading

9:12 am on 29 February 2012

Legislation making it easier to strip-search prisoners has passed its first reading in Parliament.

The Corrections Amendment Bill passed by 69 votes to 51, with the support of National, New Zealand First, ACT and United Future.

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley says the legislation provides greater clarity about when strip searches must be undertaken.

She says present system of requring approval of a manager before a prisoner reasonably believed to be carrying contraband is strip searched can cause delays and uncertainty.

The legislation would also toughen up drug-testing rules and give more powers to private prison managers.

It would allow the chief executive of the Corrections Department to delegate powers and functions to private contractors, including classifying whether a prisoner should be high or low security.

The Labour Party says the power to make decisions about security classifications should remain with the state, not a private provider.

The Green Party says the legislation reduces inmates basic rights and needs to be rewritten.