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Minister calls for tough stance on drugs

"If rehabilitation and restorative justice are to succeed, we must take drugs out of our prisons," Minister of Corrections Matt Robson said today as he opened the new drug and alcohol unit at Rolleston prisons.

The new separate Kowhai unit is a 60 bed medium secure unit for inmates with serious drug and alcohol abuse and dependency problems. This is the second of its kind in New Zealand. The first unit, which has inmates in a separate unit was piloted at Arohata Women's Prison two years ago.

"89.4% of offenders in prison have a drug or alcohol problem. Unless we deal with this head on, these offenders will continue to re-offend, doesn’t matter how good our rehabilitation programs are.

"Judges have been in despair. They know that if they send an offender with addiction problems to prison, they'll see them in court again, probably for the same offence.

"However if they are sent to dedicated and focused units that deal with the addiction, these offenders are far less likely to re-offend.

"The research speaks for itself: a recent Rand Corporation research project from Washington found that if you spend $1 million on dedicated drug treatment, you will reduce the re-offending rate for serious crimes fifteen times more than if you spend the same amount on simply increasing the length of prison sentences.

"That is why units like this at Rolleston prison are so important, and I'm pleased to announce that we will open another unit at Ohura prison later in the year.

"Reducing re-offending, and reducing the number of victims are the key goals, and they go hand in hand. Next week myself and Minister of Justice, Phil Goff will announce a key pre-budget victim package that I hope will set the agenda for the coming year," said Matt Robson.

Matt Robson will visit Victim Support while in Christchurch.

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