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Greens Welcome New Line On Prisons

18 January 2000

Greens Welcome New Line On Prisons

Green Party justice spokesperson Nandor Tanczos today welcomed Corrections Minister Matt Robson's calls for a more restorative justice system and a review of plans for more new prisons.

The Corrections Department has warned that prisoner numbers are projected to rise by around 9000 inmates by the year 2010.

Mr Tanczos agreed that to build more prisons signalled a failure of the justice system. "Prisons are basically a university for crime," he said. "Young people go in for unpaid fines and come out with degrees in burglary. According to a report by the Movement for Alternatives to Prison (MAP) around 80 per cent of prisoners will be back inside within five years of release.

"The role of the justice system should be three-fold: to help heal the harm caused by crime; to make our communities safer and to stop reoffending. Our current prison system achieves none of these," Mr Tanczos said.

"Restorative justice programmes are supported by the Greens as a more effective response to crime. The Greens see crime as an offence against a person rather than the state, so the healing of the complainant is the first priority. Secondly the community must be involved in the process so the wider issues of safety can be addressed, and thirdly, the process focusses on offenders taking responsibility for their actions and doing something to put it right," he said.

"The Cabinet Health and Social Policy Committee recommended in 1997 that pilot restorative justice programes be set up at four district court sites, however funding was never approved under the previous government. I hope the new Corrections Minister can persuade his Cabinet colleagues to finally fund these initiatives," he said.

Mr Tanczos said there have been a number of successful restorative justice pilot schemes trialled in New Zealand and a study by the Crime Prevention Unit and the Institute of Criminology in 1999 found these schemes to be effective in preventing reoffending and resulted in savings to the justice system.

Mr Tanczos said he was pleased Matt Robson had chosen to rule out the possibility of more private prisons, saying the State needed to retain control of penal institutions if they were to become places of rehabilitation as well as punishment.

Ends Nandor Tanczos 025 246 5235

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