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Time to get tough on parole, says National

Tony Ryall MP
National Law and Order spokesman 17 May 2004

Time to get tough on parole, says National

Thousands of people are becoming victims of crime because the Government is not taking strong action against parole violators, says National MP Tony Ryall.

Speaking to the National Party's Northern Regional Conference, Mr Ryall said the Corrections Department was "limp and dysfunctional". He called on the Government to change policy and enforce parole breaches quickly and firmly.

"Too often, parolees believe they get two or three chances. Even the Government, in its contract with the Department of Corrections, accepts that only 65% of parolees will honour their parole conditions. Of the 826 parolees who re-offended within 12 months of their release in 2001-02, the department sought to recall only 176 to prison. That's just over 1 in 5.

"There were at least two occasions when William Duane Bell should have been recalled to prison in the weeks before he committed the RSA killings: the day he assaulted a young woman, and the day parole officers discovered he wasn't living where he was told to.

"If we're serious about parole breaches, there has to be an immediate consequence. We must increase the risk for re-offending," Mr Ryall says.

"As a first step, parole violators should be denied bail. And, regular and random drug testing of people on parole should start immediately. Violence is a way of life for those who use and distribute drugs.

"Of total inmates released on parole, 40% will be re-convicted within one year and over 55% will be re-convicted within two years. A whopping 86% will re-offend within 5 years.

"The parole system is in dangerous disrepair. For most offenders, parole is nothing more than sporadic visits to their parole officer. This is hardly crime prevention.

"We have to ask ourselves would this be a safer country if we kept career criminals in jail with no parole at all? If prison is not rehabilitating them, then maybe it is safer to err on the side of caution. We are rewarding our most hardened criminals with a limp and dysfunctional parole system.

"New Zealanders tell me they feel that justice is often impotent to deal with these re-offenders; the violent career criminals who can breach bail, breach parole and get off. This is going to stop," says Mr Ryall.

Ends

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