Corrections Minister's 'worst case scenario' of prisoners sleeping on gym floors sparks shock and surprise

First it was double bunking, now the Government is floating the idea of prisoners sleeping on mattresses on the floor of jail gymnasiums.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis's suggestion has sparked shock and surprise just a day after a scaled-down plan for Waikeria Prison was unveiled.

"In a worst case scenario if there weren't enough beds in a prison then we'd have to look all available spaces in a prison. And so places such as the prison gymnasium might have to be used a mass dormitory and there may have to be mattresses on the floor," Mr Davis said.

It was an idea that could occur following a natural disaster, it was stressed. 

National's police spokesman Chris Bishop says the idea is astonishing and he's told the Government to "swallow your pride, build the prison".

As jails struggle to cope with the increasing prison population, the Government has rejected National's plan for a mega prison in Waikeria, south of Hamilton, opting instead to build a new 600-bed facility and mental health unit. 

And it wants to reduce the number of prisoners by 30 per cent in the next 15 years.

The Corrections Minister describes the gym proposal as an "ugly solution".

"We don't think that we're going to get to a situation where we don't have enough beds," Mr Davis said.

Tania Sawicki Mead, director of the justice lobby group Just Speak says the idea is degrading.

"It's not acceptable to put people in situations which degrade their human dignity, and sleeping on a gymnasium floor is one obvious instance of that," she said. 

As Labour vows to reduce the prison population, it's also promising to put an extra 1800 police officers on the beat - 700 of those will be focused on going after the gangs.

National says that will surely lead to an increase in the prison population and the pledges don't add up.

"The Minister wants to smash the gangs, he wants to lock up criminal gang members. That's great, but you've also got to build the prison capacity," Mr Bishop said.

Police Minister Stuart Nash said: "You get on top of the meth crime, you take out the guys who are dealing meth, who are driving meth into our communities, then what you end up doing is preventing a whole lot of crime that goes on."

The Police Commissioner, Mike Bush, is confident more cops won't lead to more prisoners.

"We have the operating model to ensure that doesn't occur. And we have proved in the past, in Counties Manukau, that it didn't occur," he said.

Kelvin Davis called the gym proposal an "ugly solution", but one that could occur following a natural disaster. Source: 1 NEWS