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A statement concerning prison administration and policy was made to a reporter by the Minister of Justice (the Hon. A. L. Herdman) yesterday. Generally Mr. Herdman expressed the opinion that more useful work is being done by the prisons to-day than ever before in the history of the Dominion. "The operations," he stated, ."are being on more systematic principles, inspection is more frequent and more rigid, the prisoners are under better control, and there are not wanting signs of improvement in the general bearing and conduct of the officers. I have good ground for predicting that in the near future if the present rate of progress is maintained, our prisons will rank well in establishment, and government with those large institutions in other countries."

■ Mr. Herdman made some reference to the employment of prison labour on the Waimarino-'i'okaanu Road. "Since the opening of the Main Trunk line," he said, "travellers to Auckland have had an opportunity of seeing from the windows of a railway carriage 6ome of the finest virgin bush scenery in the Dominion. As settlement, however, proceeds along the line—which, of course, inevitably follows a new_ railway route —the ase is gradually in many parts cutting the bush further back from the ra.ihvay. Probably in the space of a few years the bush will be seen only in the distance. In the Waimarino, fortunately, there are somo special reservations, notably the Tongariro National Park. Tho for the conversion of the present bridle-track into a tourist road for the accommodation of motor-cars and other vehicles having its starting point at Waimarino, thence across the Waimarino Plains, past the foot of Tongariro round the margin of Lake Roto-Aira and terminating at

Tokaanu. was brought under the notico of the Government. About a year ago permission was given to the Prisons Department to make a start with the un- : dertaking. It is not a work which , would under ordinary circumstances be ■ undertaken by the State as there are other roads in the Dominion more necessary upon which money must be spent, but it is a work which can well be taken in hand by the Prisons Department. We established a, camp about four miles from the Waimarino railway station about nine months ago, end sent live men up there as a start. There are now 3-5 prisoners on the work. They have done a considerable amount of rough pioneering work, including the building of two bridges (this with th© help of a Public Works bridge-builder), and one gang is working about eight miles from the Waimarino railway station clearing the road-lino. This work has not, however, proceeded as rapidly (is I would have liked. The building of the huts for the prisoners was a slow, tedious business to begin with. Then there was delay in getting timber on the ground, and one heavy cutting was not attacked in the most expeditious fashion. The initial work of setting up a prison camp m country like this is beset by many difficulties, but the energy and perseverance of the prison officers charccd v/ith the responsibility have been - able to surmount these one one. The camp is now properly established, and I am glad to say the work has recently proceeded at a more satisfactory pace. Best Road In the Dominion. "We hope to make this road one of the best in New Zealand. There is abundance of stone along the Toute which, when put' through the stonecrusher wo now have on the ground, should enable a fine surface road to be made. Wlion the road is completed it will be, possible to leave Wellington at 9 o'clock at night, and, if a motor-car is provided at Waimarino, to rcach Tokaanu by 10 o'clock the next morning. The road will, of course, «o across part of the tussock-covered Waimarino plains. As we propose to plant trees along the route at various points the drive across the plains to Lake Taupo with Tongariro, Ngaruhoe, and Ruapehu on the right hand side should le one of the finest in New Zealand. If the Toad round Lake Taupo is improved and made available for motor traffic, it will be possible to drive by motor from Wellington, through to Tauno, thence to Rotorua, and on to Auckland. Wellington Prisons. "The gaol arrangements in Wellington have been vigorously condemned by many," Mr. Herdman stated, "and not without justification. For many years we have had three different institutions in the city—Mount Cook,. The Terrace, and Point Halswell, which, of course, means that three separate staffs have to be maintained to manage them. I give praise to the present gaoler at The Terrace Prison for the. change that he has made since Iho was; put in.charge about a year ago. When I visited this place before his arrival it was untidy, the prisoners lounged about, and the officers looked the reverse of energetic. Now all that has -been changed. The institution is thoroughly clean, the officers look smart and bright, and the prisoners work as if- they~Teally were under control. No structural change of any importance has been .or. will be made at The Terrace because we intend to .close it as soon as possible. For many, years also, there has been an unedifying daily procession of prisoners through the streets from the Terraoe to Mount Cook. By the: establishment of suitable cell accommodation at Mount Cook last year wh'ero prisoners are employed in the brick kilns, we were able to stop the march through town. At Mount Cook there are 42 men confined and they are employed at brick-making and upon the general improvement of . the Mount Ccok site. One of two important improvements have been made at this place during the past year. _ First, we have provided, as I have said, for the accommodation of the men there by building a large cell house, so avoiding tho daily march through the streets. Second, we have walled in the space where the men actually work and havo so dispensed with the need for two sentries. Third, by altering the system of working and by stricter supervision wo have increased the capacity for output of bricks by 60 per cent. Wo have taken steps which effectually prevent friendly gifts of "con' traband" (tobacco, matches, etc.) reaching the prisoners. It was well known that friends of prisoners were in tho habit of "planting" gifts for prisoners of various kinds about the grounds of Mount Cook. The Crounds at Mount Cook. "As soon as the building is completed at Halswell the brick-making will cease, and tho men will be moved out of town. I understand that it is intended some day in tho future to utilise as a storehouse for valuable records tho large brick building at present occupied by tho Defenco authorities, and that a new Dominion Museum is to be erected fronting Buckle Street. Believing this to bo tho case, we have set to work to level ' and improve the back part of this re- ' ppi vp,, The people* of Wellington do not seem to appreciate the goseibiUties cf

the Mount Cook site. With very little expenditure it can be made one of the most attractive places ill the City—a perpetual source of pleasure and satisfaction to those who live in the southern part of the town. I would like to see steps taken to extend the boundaries of the reserve so that the Crown should own the whole block right through from Tasman. Street to Taranaki Street. If we are given the opportunity and any encouragement, we can help to improve the Mount Cook Reserve beyond recognition. At Port Halswell. "Our scheme for the future regarding Wellington is a. gaol at Point Halswell on the Defcnce Reserve. We have commenced biuilding operations there fc'hich, when completed, will mean one penal establishment for Wellington instead of three. The_ excavation work for.the new building is proceeding with satisfactory progress. The place is right away from the City, and yet prisoners can be brought to and from the Courts without difficulty, and that part of the peninsula is not likely to be used for residential purposes for many years to _ come. We had an average of 36 prisoners at the present gaol there last year. We have 54 prisoners there no*v.

"About 18 months ago we tried an, experiment in the way of tree-planting" on the bare hills about Halswell. About 140,000 trees were planted and 1 am glad to be able to _ state that when I last visited the prison they appeared to be flourishing. We propose to put in 00,000 more during the coming winter. The gaoler has been instructed to put on ten or a dozen men to widen the read round the waterfront below the prison, and to cut away the sharp corners which at present make the road dangerous. We also propose when we get the consent of owners to continue 'he road, which now terminates beyond Fort Dorset cutting, right round the coast to Lyall Bay. This, I think, will be a' very useful work. When it is completed tHe drive round Wellington Harbour past the forts through Seatoun, thence through' the Fort Dorset cutting to Lyall Bay, thenc'e round to Oriental Hay, should be one of the finest drives in New Zealand. Two property owners have already given their conscnt to the work being undertaken. The third has the matter still under consideration, and I hope his authority will soon be forthcoming to_ enable a work of much benefit to tho citizens of Wellington to be carried out as proposed in the Bcheme. "It may be of interest to know that the Wellington prisons received last year for work done the sum of £1350. The total earnings of the whole of the prisons for last year amount to £7797. New Legislation. ' 'When the war clouds roll away I propose to introduce amendments of the Prisons Act which will aim at simplifying the work of the Prisons Board, and which will enable the Crown to release prisoners of good behaviour upon probation. I do.not feel inclined at present to go the length of a Criminal dourt of Appeal, but the alteration in the law which we propose to submit to Parliament will put it in tho power of the Department to remedy any injustice which may arise from the imposition of unequal punishments.

The Homes for inebriates, "There is one other nutter which must be dealt with is more plentiful and the country gets back to a normal state of living. It will be necessarv for the State to take charge of the inebriates at present at Roto Roa and Pakatoa. I have nothing to say against the treatment of these people by the. Salvation Army officers. As far as it lies in their power they are doing excellent work, but I am convinced that the State Bhould' control these institutions. The Army has apparently no power to make the inmates work. The State would have, and should' have, that power, and were these institutions controlled by the Government we would insist upon all persons committed to them, whether; voluntarily or compulsorily, being steadily employed at some healthy and suitable occupation."

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PRISON SYSTEM, Dominion, Volume 8, Issue 2441, 21 April 1915

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PRISON SYSTEM Dominion, Volume 8, Issue 2441, 21 April 1915

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