Upston, Corrections and ‘social investment’

Louise Upston is keen to make a difference to prison numbers and re-offending rates by applying ‘social investment’ principals – spending more money to reduce prisoner recidivism and therefore reduce crime and prisoner numbers and therefore reduce prison costs and the costs of crime to families and communities and the country.

Prior to Bill English’s reshuffle it was suggested by a number of pundits that Upston, a Minister outside of Cabinet, was at risk of demotion. So it was a surprise to some that she was promoted into Cabinet.

Upston was notably given the Corrections portfolio, but her other responsibilities may also be significant – she remains Associate Minister of Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment and picks up Associate Minister of Education plus Associate Minister of Primary Industries.

Herald: Corrections Minister: my views have changed

One of the surprises of Prime Minister Bill English’s Cabinet reshuffle was handing the challenging and important Corrections portfolio from Judith Collins to Taupo MP Louise Upston.

Upston told the Herald that the social investment work – to be headed by Justice Minister Amy Adams – would be central to work in the Corrections portfolio. That meant investing in rehabilitation and other programmes to try and cut reoffending rates.

“If you think about social investment – this is the opportunity to interrupt and really break that cycle, which is something I’m really excited about.

“We will continue to have a focus on making sure our communities are safe. But also, our continued focus will be on making sure that where taxpayers money is spent, it is spent wisely and getting the outcomes that people expect.

The outcome in this area is around reoffending rates. It is complex, it is challenging, and I’m looking forward to it.”

It is certainly complex and challenging, and there are no quick fixes. But if the Government invests more (time and money) into addressing the causes of crime, and is more effective at rehabilitating prisoners, then we should see improvements over time.

Upston has less than a year until the election to start making more of a difference, and there’s no guarantee she will still be Corrections Minister after that – and also no guarantee National will still be in power.

She will need help from English and new Finance Minister Steven Joyce as it will cost more money initially.

Today, she said her experience as an MP meant some of her views on law and order had changed.

I would hope that MPs would learn from their experiences and be prepared to change their views. They are able to become much better informed than the average person.

“And some of that has been, actually, what I have seen in Tongariro [prison]. And one of the real standouts for me was a visit to the Maori Focus Unit and to, first of all, see the enormous dedication of the Corrections staff…but also then in the discussions with the inmates for them to see they had quite a different future as a result of the changes that we were making.

“Yep, I do think if someone has done a crime, they do the time. But we also need to make sure that when they come out that they are better than when they went in, and more importantly they have greater opportunities for them and their families.”

Key things that need to be addressed are addictions and drug and alcohol abuse, violence, and for many prisoners fundamental education such as literacy and numeracy (a high number of prisoners have failed badly in education) as well as employment skills.

“If I look at my other portfolios – Associate Education and Associate Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment – the Prime Minister signalled to me that he wants me to continue my focus on trades training, which links back very nicely to Corrections.”

Those Associate portfolios have an important association with Corrections and rehabilitation.

But it will be difficult getting more money allocated for crime prevention and prisoner rehabilitation when increasing prisoner numbers require substantially funds immediately in order to house the prisoners.

In October, the Government announced plans to cope with a booming prisoner population including a 1500-bed prison on the current Waikeria Prison site in Waikato.

Those changes will hit the Government’s books by an extra $2.5 billion over about five years.

Wouldn’t it be good if that sort of money was spent on reducing prisoner numbers rather than building more prisons.

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1 Comment

  1. Zedd

     /  21st December 2016

    Thats what we need.. a minister that sees most prisoners as people (to be rehab’d. & retrained, to keep them out of prison), not just rats to be CRUSHED !

    Of course, some are probably.. beyond redemption ? :/

    Judith is better working.. elsewhere 😀


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