Serious efforts to reduce crime begins to pay

And Rehabilitation should accompany detention

Judith Collins – 

I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to Indian Newslink on 17 years of publication on November 15, 2016.

Thank you for the opportunity to write a short article on balancing punishment with rehabilitation.

We are fortunate to live in a very safe country. Recently, New Zealand was ranked fourth safest country in the Global Peace Index.

But the level of crime in society and how we deal with that crime is always topical.

Obligation to People

The government has an obligation to do what it can to keep the public safe from crime and we take that very seriously.

At the same time, we must do our very best to reduce reoffending and rehabilitate offenders while they are in custody. Most offenders will be back in the community one day.

Recently, I announced that the government would increase prison capacity by 1800 beds on existing prison sites.

Despite significant progress in reducing crime (total crime is down 15% since 2011), the number of prisoners has increased faster than projected.

This is because the proportion of offenders charged with serious crimes has risen, meaning more people are being remanded in custody and serving more of their sentences in prison.

Many less serious cases have been diverted out of the justice system, so there is now a smaller proportion of first time and lower-risk offenders in the system.

Reducing reoffending

But the flipside is that Corrections is dealing with a harder core of repeat offenders who are much harder to rehabilitate.

As a result, we must intensify efforts to reduce reoffending.

Therefore, the expenditure on additional prison beds will be accompanied by significant new investment in prisoner rehabilitation including:

  • Drug Treatment Units to address drug and alcohol related issues
  • Special Treatment Units to address violent and sexual offending
  • Reintegration programmes
  • Education and training programmes

Improving access to education, alcohol and drug interventions, violence prevention courses will help to reduce reoffending.

Drug and alcohol abuse are factors known to influence crime. Two thirds of prisoners have substance abuse problems and more than 50 per cent of crime is committed by people under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Tackling drug and alcohol addiction can contribute of people leading an offence-free life once they leave prison.

Prison Programmes

The expansion of drug and alcohol programmes in prison has led to treatment for 4000 more prisoners a year by 2017.

In recent years, Corrections has increased its provision of rehabilitation and reintegration programmes, and the government is backing that with additional funding.

In 2015-2016 $176 million was spent on services to rehabilitate and reintegrate offenders. And we will continue to invest in these types of services.

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Improving safety

As both Police and Corrections Minister, I am acutely aware that there are few things more important to people than having safe streets, safe homes and safe communities.

And one way we can improve public safety is to support Corrections in its efforts to rehabilitate.

The core obligation of Corrections is of course to provide safe, secure and humane containment.  But the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners is also extremely important.

Corrections, backed by the government, will continue to actively work with offenders to provide rehabilitation, education and employment training that will make a positive difference to assist them to turn their lives around.

Judith Collins is Police and Corrections Minister.

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