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Effective Interventions package launched

15 August 2006

Effective Interventions package launched

Prime Minister Helen Clark, Justice Minister Mark Burton, and Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor today released details of changes to the criminal justice system to improve the current sentencing regime, introduce new sentencing options, and provide more treatment services for prisoners.

Helen Clark said the Effective Intervention package contains measures which are significant and far-reaching.

"The Labour-led Government is committed to a society where all families, young and old, are safe and secure.

"Central to this commitment is having a criminal justice system which protects our communities by more effectively punishing offenders and making better use of our prisons. Over time the measures being announced today should lower the rate of offending, including recidivisim, and the rate of imprisonment – which is unacceptably high in comparison with most Western countries.
The Government's proposal contains four key elements:

- A revamp of the sentencing system so that there is a more transparent, consistent, and standardised approach to sentencing. This will include the establishment of a Sentencing Council and parole reform

- The introduction of home detention as a sentence in its own right for lower-risk offenders

- The introduction of a new tier of community sentences which will increase the number of sentencing options available to judges. These will be part of a clear hierarchy of community-based sentences so that there is clarity about the relationship between sentences in terms of their severity

- Two new drug and alcohol treatment units in prisons and two further general purpose special treatment units to provide intensive rehabilitative programmes in prisons.

"Changes made since 1999 to criminal justice legislation increased penalties for serious crimes. The Sentencing Act 2002 is delivering longer sentences for serious offenders, but there need to be more alternatives to imprisonment for offenders at the lower end of the scale.

"The measures announced today will change how some offenders are sentenced, and how they serve those sentences, and should serve to address the fast growing rate of imprisonment New Zealand has been experiencing.

"New Zealand's prison population has increased sharply over the last decade and is forecast to increase further over the next five years. By 30 June this year the number of inmates had climbed to 7,700 compared to 4,530 a decade ago. This peak has been reached even though the rate of recorded crime is at its lowest level in over 20 years.

"We now have the fifth highest rate of imprisonment in the OECD and a higher rate than the UK, Canada and Australia."
Helen Clark said that the high rate of imprisonment and recidivism were hard issues to tackle, but it was clear that the criminal justice system cannot go on as it is.

"The measures announced today aim to get better results and to make our communities safer," she said.

ENDS

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