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Prison population forecast released

7 March 2006

Prison population forecast released

Justice Minister Mark Burton today released the Prison Population Forecast 2005. The report, which is produced annually by the Justice Ministry, forecasts possible prisoner numbers for a five-year period from the date of publication.

The report forecasts a steady increase in the prison population between 2005 and 2010 at a higher rate of growth than that predicted in the 2004 forecast. New Zealand currently has the second highest per capita imprisonment rate in the Western World.

"The forecast shows that the growth in prison numbers experienced over the past decade looks set to continue over the next five-year period," Mark Burton said.

The tougher sentencing options this Government has put in place, through the 2002 Sentencing and Parole Acts, are in part reflected in the prison population figures. Four new prisons will become operational by 2007.

"The Government is committed to keeping New Zealand families safe and secure. There will not be any lessening in penalties for serious repeat offenders and hardened criminals. For those people from whom the public must be protected there is no other option than imprisonment," Mark Burton said.

"For some others however, the use of non-custodial sanctions may be more productive, and a smarter, more effective use of taxpayers' money. The growth in prisoner numbers is part of the reason that the government is giving consideration to new effective ways that offenders can repay their debt to society. The other goal is, of course, to reduce criminal offending.

"Any new sanctions would be thoroughly evaluated and would complement existing measures to ensure the public is safe from dangerous and violent offenders," he said.

The forecast presents four scenarios for the growth of the prison population. Each scenario was developed taking into account factors that influence population such as trends in prosecutions, sentencing, remand time and imprisonment rates. The forecast includes the forecast authors' 'preferred' scenario that they believe most effectively captures the impact of legislative changes in 2002 and achieves the best balance between baseline population scenario and the latest actual prison population.

The forecast document is used as a tool to assist and inform the planning and policy-making processes within the justice sector. The use of four scenarios provides a range of possible outcomes based on differing factors, allowing those involved in planning and policy formulation to gain an understanding of the impact these factors may have on the prison population. The report is available online at: www.justice.govt.nz

ENDS

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