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Taskforce to tackle prison numbers announced

7 July 2000
Media Statement

Taskforce to tackle prison numbers announced

Cabinet has given the go-ahead for Minister of Corrections Matt Robson to set up a Taskforce to tackle the predicted rise in prison numbers.

Matt Robson announced the new initiative at the Christchurch Restorative Justice Services Trust annual general meeting today.

"If we are to look seriously at reducing prison numbers we have to get smart at targeting unacceptably high re-offending rates in New Zealand. Community safety must be paramount," says Matt Robson.

Offenders released from prison in New Zealand have a re-conviction rate of up to 80%, higher than Australia, Canada, England or Scotland.

New Zealand imprisons more people per head of population than nearly every other Western country, including Australia and the UK. We imprison 149 people per 100,000 of the general population (including inmates on remand).

Department of Corrections figures predict a rise in the prison population of approximately 1000 by the year 2003. 44% of the prison population are imprisoned for non-violent offences.

"This Taskforce offers us a chance to look at ways of toughening up community sentencing, to make programs like Home Detention, Periodic Detention, Habilitation Centres, half way houses as effective as possible.

"Community sentencing must be rigorous if we are to look at ways of reducing the numbers in prisons. The first priority is that the community feel safe, the second priority is that we target re-offending with programs that work.

"First time offenders inside for less serious offences for example are often more effectively turned around from a life in crime on sentences served outside of prisons.
I want to make sure that prisons are able and resourced to do what prisons do best. Keep the community safe from violent offenders often for long periods of time, and deliver concentrated rehabilitation programmes."

Matt Robson will head the Taskforce. Terms of reference will be announced shortly.


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