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Public Invited To Have Say On New Corrections Laws

2 May 2001

Public Invited To Have A Say On New Corrections Laws

Victims of crime are being asked to have a say in the way our prisons are run, in a public consultation exercise on corrections laws.

Corrections Minister Matt Robson says the current Penal Institutions Act is nearly fifty years old and he wants public input into an overhaul.

"The laws covering corrections have been amended and supplemented many times in the last half a century. The result is a patchwork that is difficult to operate, out of step with the times and which may not be in tune with public opinion," Matt Robson said.

Modern corrections laws are part of a three-step plan to reduce offending and ensure that the public are kept safe.

A new Sentencing Act will ensure dangerous offenders can be detained for as long as they present a danger to public safety. This month a major review of ways to reduce offending will be released. And Matt Robson wants a new Corrections Bill introduced into parliament by early next year.

He today released a public consultation document titled Better Corrections Law for New Zealand.

Consultation on the document will include focus groups with victims of crime, and Matt Robson is encouraging victims to participate actively.

Issues raised in the consultation include the purposes and principles behind corrections laws, as well as the way offenders are managed.

One example of the issues that victims could comment on is the role of temporary work release for inmates.

At present, some inmates can be released from prison to go to work, returning to jail at night, with their wages used to compensate victims. The law doesn't currently set out the purpose of temporary release, and it doesn't say who is eligible or the maximum length of release.

Other issues include questions about what access prisoners should have to phones and mail.

The consultation asks what weapons and holds are appropriate to restrain offenders, especially when new technology such as disorienting laser beams are becoming available.

Other issues include the way offences against prison discipline are dealt with. At present visitors to prison face a maximum fine of $2000 or three months jail for offences such as trying to bring in drugs. The consultation asks whether those penalties are sufficient.

A major issue is the way corrections laws can help to reduce offending by promoting the rehabilitation of offenders and their re-integration into the community.

Matt Robson says the law needs to underline Corrections' main job, which is to maintain 'a safe and just society by administering sentences and orders imposed by the courts.'

"Corrections also has clearly defined goals of reducing re-offending and rehabilitating and reintegrating offenders.

"I am pleased that the public have the opportunity to have a say in the way the Government manages offenders," Matt Robson said.

Submissions close on Monday, 18 June 2001.

Copies of the discussion document are available from the Corrections Department, phone toll-free on 0800 004 326. The full document is also available on the Department’s website at www.corrections.govt.nz.

Ends

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