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Collins denies trying to control visits

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 3/03/2016

Corrections Minister Judith Collins has proved there's nothing new in asking MPs to let her office know when they visit prisons.

Ms Collins emailed all MPs on Thursday pointing out they had a right to visit prisons but should first contact her office so arrangements could be made.

That's upset some of them who say they have a legal right to visit prisons and don't need her goodwill or permission.

"If I have urgent concerns about what's happening in a prison I will continue to exercise my right to enter a prison at any time without going through the minister's office," said the Green Party's David Clendon.

Labour MPs also said they had an absolute right to visit prisons.

Deputy leader Annette King says Ms Collins appears to be trying to control visits.

The MPs think the minister is reacting to recent bad publicity over the way prisons are being run.

Ms Collins says she's doing nothing of the sort.

"I actually sent pretty much the same letter to MPs in 2009 when I was corrections minister the first time," she told NZ Newswire.

"New MPs might not know they're entitled to visit prisons and it's better to have the right people take them around."

Now she's released her 2009 letter.

It says in the first paragraph that MPs are entitled to visit prisons under a section of the Corrections Act.

"It is long-standing protocol that, notwithstanding MPs' rights ... that MPs wishing to visit a prison contact the minister's office for advice," it said.

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