Prisoner reoffending reform

In a pre-budget announcement Corrections ministers have commited to spending on reform targetting reducing prisoner reoffending by 25%. This is a big target, but it’s well known that rehabilitation has not been given anywhere enough attention.

Budget 2012: $65m on reducing reoffending

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley and Associate Corrections Minister Dr Pita Sharples said the ‘reprioritised’ operational funding was aimed at reducing reoffending by 25 per cent by 2017.

It would go towards alcohol and drug treatment, increased education, skills training and employment programmes for prisoners.

Mrs Tolley said the funding would mean 18,500 fewer victims of crime and 600 less prisoners in jail in 2017 than last year.

“It’s time to get serious about breaking this vicious cycle of prison and reoffending.

Dr Sharples said represented a shift towards the rehabilitation and restoration of prisoners to their whanau and communities.

“This is a more humane response to offending, and it is cheaper and more effective.

As usual the media has found people who are able to find something critical about this, but it’s more interesting to see who is supporting it – the Howard League for penal reform, who’s chief executive is well known Labour official Mike Williams.

Howard League backs reform plan

Oppostion parties, a drug and alcohol counsellor and the Corrections Association are skeptical about whether a 25% reduction can be achieved.

But Howard League chief executive Mike Williams says international research shows such programmes work.

The Government says the target is bold but achievable.

The Corrections Department says it can achieve a 25% reduction in prisoner reoffending by 2017.

Chief executive Ray Smith says currently about 27% of prisoners reoffend when released and are back in prison within one year.

He wants this number to reduce to about 20% and says providing more participation in programmes for prisoners will lessen the likelihood of reoffending.

This sounds like an overdue no-brainer.

Jobs needed first

New Zealand First says the Government needs to create jobs for prisoners if it wants to reduce reoffending. Corrections spokesperson Asenati Lole-Taylor says there must be jobs for prisoners when they are released.

But Labour says jobs are scarce in the current economic climate, so finding work for ex-inmates is going to be difficult.

Of course proper rehabilitation means getting ex prisoners into jobs, and they can be hard to find, but it’s nonsense waiting until there are enough jobs – when will that be? Why can’t reducing reoffending and increasing jobs happen concurrently?

This is a good example of parties working together in coalition, with the support of organisastions and people, where the priority is on finding what is most likley to work best, without getting bogged down with politics.

Reducing prisoner reoffending will result in whole of society benefits – less tax to fund police, courts and prisons, and less victims of crimes.

 

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