“Actually not that hard” reducing prison population by 30%

Andrew Little, in an interview on The Nation this morning, spoke about his plans to reduce the prison population by 30%, saying “it’s actually not that hard if we choose to resource it properly.”

That’s optimistic – and ‘resourcing it properly’ alongside resourcing health ‘properly’ and resourcing education ‘properly’ and paying for all the Government’s promises and commitments might be a wee bit challenging.


Little says they’re going to take a sensible approach to reducing the prison muster.

He says there are people in prison who with proper assistance could be set up as productive citizens again.

“We’re not only sending more people to prison, we’re sending them there for longer” says Little, and some prisoners can’t be paroled because there aren’t the resources for them to do the necessary courses.

Little says there’s merit in setting up a sentencing council to ensure consistency in the decisions.

Ministry of Justice research says that more Police officers means more people in prison – but Little says the style of Policing for the 1800 new officers will be around deterring crime.

Time will tell where idealism meets realism. I wish Little well with this, really. Crime, imprisonment rates and mental health problems and drug and alcohol problems are all too big, but reducing them all with budget constraints will be a bit of a challenge.

NZH reported on this: Andrew Little says he will reduce the prison population

The Minister of Justice and for Courts has revealed how he plans to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent during the next 15 years – by ensuring offenders with mental health problems get better rehabilitation and that judges are consistent in sentencing.

Speaking to Three’s The Nation Andrew Little said he was going to approach the issue “very sensibly”.

“It’s actually not that hard if we choose to resource it properly.”

Although some hardened criminals needed to stay locked up because they were a danger to society, a “whole chunk” of prisoners were there because they were battling other issues which had driven their offending, he said.

Too many people with mental health problems and other issues weren’t getting the help they needed while in prison, Little said, and so were unable to meet the conditions they had to get parole.

Ensuring they were properly rehabilitated would make it easier for ex-prisoners to integrate back into society and reduce reoffending.

He also revealed he would review how sentencing and bail was being managed by the courts.

Part of the reason our prison population was so high was because we were jailing people for longer, he said.

Little said the issue was not necessarily with the legislation, but instead more likely stemmed from how it was being applied and enforced.

“What we do have to do is get some consistency.”

Little would also look into how bail was being administered. He questioned whether it was reasonable to lock up many people who had been charged but were yet to be tried.

While there was “no question” the safety of the community needed to come first, it needed to be balanced against the actual risk offenders awaiting trial posed to the public.

Full interview here.


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  December 2, 2017

    Better mental health treatment for inmates and parolees seems to be a sensible strategy and I hope it is successful. Not so sure about releasing more on bail – I’m presuming present scrutiny of risk is already stringent so that might be high risk.

    • It’s sensible, but it has been talked about for a long time. Little will have a challenge getting sufficient funding and making more of a difference.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  December 2, 2017

        Seems to be a classic case for the social investment strategy to justify funding if it can sufficiently reduce recidivism and enable transition to employment. The challenge is to make it work. Funding would follow.

  2. artcroft

     /  December 2, 2017

    Ahhh!, This just means if you can come up with any excuse for theft, fraud, common assault, attempted murder, etc.. your let off. Excuses will include a). colonialism, b) learning difficulties, c) I just felt sad that day ….

    #this govt sucks

  3. Zedd

     /  December 2, 2017

    If they stopped seeing police, courts & prison as ‘a one stop shop’ for societies ‘issues’ & started seriously looking at separate drug & mental health systems, they could likel close half the prisons. I hear the talk about increasing Police to decrease prison population, Im not convinced that is the answer, but Im open to watch.

    I think about half the money going into ‘criminal justice’ would be better spent by the Dept. of health ?

  4. Gezza

     /  December 2, 2017

    If he’s going to be looking at not necessarily the legislation, as stated in the post, but at getting more consistency in sentencing, that’ll get interesting. He could come awfully close to trying to cross the line of the separation of powers. For a lawyer he struck me as not exactly one of the sharpest during his unproven allegations phases of barking at passing cars. Taking on the Law Society & the Judiciary – the only elitist segment of our society to really have their self-assumed sanctity, escape from culpability, & untouchability practically sewn up, will be instructive.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  December 2, 2017

      That bit seemed to be questionable for another reason. Consistency in sentencing should rank second to appropriate sentencing IMHO. Taking into account all relevant factors makes adjudicating on consistency difficult and value-sensitive. What evidence of inconsistency is there?

      • Gezza

         /  December 2, 2017

        That last is a very good question, Sir Alan.
        Ministerial email: a.little@ministers.govt.nz

      • David Lenny

         /  December 2, 2017

        In the interview his comments about inconsistency focused largely on inconsistency in granting bail, where he claimed that judges were refusing bail to people who were not a danger to society, but he offered no specific evidence of the extent of this problem. He also claimed while commenting on inconsistency that some people were held on bail for over a year before trial, but this is a problem of courtroom availability rather than consistency.

  5. Blazer

     /  December 2, 2017

    what unproven allegations are you talking ..about?

    • Gezza

       /  December 2, 2017

      Which ones would you like to discuss?

      • Blazer

         /  December 2, 2017


        • Gezza

           /  December 2, 2017

          The couple he notably & excruciatingly embarrassingly had to publicly back down from will do. You know who they are. So does everybody else. So your wasting my time on this has come to an end.

          • Blazer

             /  December 2, 2017

            I though so…caught bluffing…again.

            • Gezza

               /  December 2, 2017

              Nup. You caught playing smart arse, when you well know two separate cases where he desperately backpedalled, in writing to the offended parties.

  6. Blazer

     /  December 2, 2017

    any one.

  7. Trevors_elbow

     /  December 2, 2017

    Admirably. But the rub is we dont have enough secure facilities for the seriously mentally ill. So to jail they go. Is this an admission that community care for the mentally is a failure from Mr Little?

    Frankly I dont care if they are mad, bad or both when they on the streets being a threat to life and limb of the general public…. I just want them away from my family. End of….

    Put them on the streets and bad stuff happens then the blame will attached to Mr Little

  8. Amy Adams responds to Little’s interview:

    He told Three’s The Nation programme on Saturday there are too many people in jail, and inconsistency in judges’ rulings may be a reason.

    “We need to look at the way bail is being handled and managed both by the courts and by the prison system”.

    The government could look at bail laws, he said.

    “I suspect it’s more about the way it’s being applied and enforced as opposed to whether there’s a problem with the law.”

    Mr Little said the previous Labour government had put in place a Sentencing Council to get some consistency in sentencing but the National government abandoned it.

    There was merit in reconsidering the council.

    National Party justice spokeswoman Amy Adams said most New Zealanders welcomed strong sentences for serious and violent criminals and wanted caution around granting bail.

    Mr Little appeared to be calling for judges to stop erring on the side of caution, she said.
    “In what were extraordinary comments for a justice minister to make, Mr Little has said the bail laws are fine but it’s the way judges apply them that is the problem.

    “Not only is it constitutionally inappropriate for a minister to criticise the judiciary, it confirms that the coalition government will be soft on crime,” she said.


  9. Gerrit

     /  December 2, 2017

    I don’t know why the target is so low. Little could easily get to 100% reduction in prison numbers by simply issuing books full of wet bus ticket to judges.

    Judges can throw the proverbial book (full of wet bus tickets) at convicted criminals.

    Slap their wrists with wet bus tickets and set them free.

  10. Fight4NZ

     /  December 2, 2017

    Capital punishment anyone?

    • Gezza

       /  December 2, 2017

      Not for me thanks.
      Tell you what though. Try it out on yourself. Report back? If I like what I hear I might reconsider?

    • Corky

       /  December 2, 2017

      There are hundreds of ferals who need executing, and would be executed in other countries.
      Hell, I could pull the trigger myself. The problem is too my innocent people have been executed. So that counts me out..

      • Gezza

         /  December 2, 2017

        What do you mean “… my innocent people have been executed”?
        Has this been reported in the papers? When was it? Who were they? Family members?

        • Gezza

           /  December 2, 2017

          Hell, I could pull the trigger myself.
          😮 Christ!
          Did you do it? 😳

      • PartisanZ

         /  December 2, 2017

        Kinda like Sharia Law eh Corky?

        Some form of Western Secular Sharia Law is really what you want, isn’t it?

        It’s like the logical extension of ‘Three Strikes’?

        Sharia is “One strike and you’re out”

        Except you can’t give a person back their hand or their life if you find out you’ve wrongly convicted them … assuming there’s even been a trial.