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Minister targets youth offending

"If we can get to young offenders before they become serious adult criminals, then we go a long way to reducing future crime and re-building a sense of safety in our communities, says Minister of Corrections, Matt Robson.

He was opening New Zealand's second specialist youth unit at Waikeria prison today. The first opened at Hawkes Bay prison last year.

"In the recent budget the government announced a $22.12 million Youth Justice package to not only prevent youth offending in the first place, but to deal effectively with those who have already offended.

"I believe it is vital that specialist units like this exist to tackle youth crime, and return these young offenders to our streets, not as patched gang members, but as reformed citizens.

"Our budget allocation for Vote Corrections this year has prioritised other focused initiatives which have been proven to reduce re-offending. That's why we were able to add an additional $900,000 to the funding of Tikanga Maori programmes and build on the huge success of the Maori focus units.

"We've put an extra $4.2 million to ensure that inmates return to society with job skills and an education.

"We've got an extra $2.3 million to increase the funding for the management of Serious Young Offenders, an $619,000 increase to help us re-integrate inmates and their families after release, $225,000 to fund the monitoring of inmates' phone calls and a further $46,000 to extend the New Zealand Conservation Corps Pilot for another year," says Matt Robson.

"This new youth unit which we're opening today is part of this government's determination to reduce New Zealand's appalling re-offending rate. It will be a spring-board for change to reduce re-offending and so reduce the number of victims in the future.

"It's a high medium security facility, self-contained, with 35 beds. Similar to the successful Hawkes Bay youth unit, the Waikeria unit will house vulnerable 17-19 year old youth and all 15-16 year olds.

"The focus will be on rehabilitation. Keeping vulnerable kids separate from adults is important. We want to fill their days with schooling, work, sport, and programmes to tackle the causes of their offending. This is the key to changing their behaviour, and that is our goal," says Matt Robson.


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