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Karaka Special Treatment Unit - Goff Speech

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Corrections

27 February 2007

Speech Notes

Speech for the opening of the Karaka Special Treatment Unit at Waikeria Prison

Kia Ora, Talofa and welcome.

I acknowledge the kaumatua and kuia, and the local Tainui iwi, and thank them for their welcome. May I also acknowledge those from Prison Care Ministries, Anglican Action, PARS, Pacific Peoples Addiction and the University of Waikato and all of those who contribute to the effective running of Waikeria.

I welcome the launch of this initiative to reduce re-offending and make our communities safer.

Today, we are opening Karaka, the first of three new Special Treatment Units for high-risk offenders.

The purpose of the new units is to address repeat offending by providing prisoners with the skills to live without crime when released from prison.

Over the last few years, the Government has invested close to $1 billion in building four new prisons and increasing bed capacities at existing sites. This has provided more than 2,370 additional beds. Simply putting more and more people in prison however is not the answer. As a Government, we also have to look at long-term ways of reducing offending and prison numbers. That is the aim of the Government’s Effective Interventions package.

Effective Interventions is a series a measures aimed at improving the criminal justice system and making New Zealand safer and a fairer society. Rehabilitation and reintegration is an important part of this package. To reduce offending, we need smarter, well-designed and well implemented interventions directed at those most at risk. At present, 42 percent of prisoners are reconvicted within 12 months of their release. This figure is too high.

The Department has a well-established, evidence-based framework of rehabilitive interventions to reduce re-offending and re-imprisonment.

Programmes target alcohol and drug use, violence, sexual offending, education, employment skills and cultural issues. But we clearly need to do more.

We need to target repeat offenders and help break their cycle of crime. Both through programmes in prison and for those serving community based sentences.

Over 60 percent of offenders are affected by alcohol or other drugs at the time of their offending. To address this, drug, alcohol and mental health treatment programmes need to be available to offenders. As part of the Effective Interventions package, the Government has built two new Drug Treatment Units. The first was opened at Rimutaka Prison last year and the second will be opened at Spring Hill Corrections Facility in July. We have also opened new drug treatment units at Hawke’s Bay and Christchurch Men’s prisons, bringing the total number of units dedicated to drug and alcohol addiction treatment to six.

Today I am also pleased to announce a new joint partnership between the Department of Corrections and the Ministry of Health. Both Government organisations will be working together to tackle the substance abuse and health issues in our community and within prisons.

A three year initiative will be trialled in the Auckland region, with a view to longer term rolling out of services across the country. A new specialised alcohol and other drug offender team will be established at Auckland Regional Community Alcohol and Drug Service (CADS). They will provide support to offenders serving community based sentences who are assessed as having health or substance abuse issues.

They will ensure they have the appropriate access to programmes already available in the community. The team will also run drug counselling sessions for prisoners in the four Auckland region prisons.

Returning to the new Special Treatment Units, these units will operate an intensive programme for offenders who are at a high-risk of re-offending. International research and New Zealand studies show the need to provide longer and intensive programmes to high risk offenders through a dedicated environment in order to decrease the offenders likelihood of re-offending.

This unit will give 40 prisoners specialist treatment each year. It requires and provides the opportunity for them to confront and tackle the causes for their offending. Reducing re-offending helps inmates for whom prison is a revolving door to avoid wasting their lives in prison, most importantly it reduces the chances of people becoming victims and makes our communities safer.

I look forward to further units being opened at Spring Hill Corrections Facility in July and Christchurch Men’s next year. Today, it gives me great pleasure to officially open the first Special Treatment Unit, Karaka.

To mark this special occasion, Hone Ranga and his team of carvers have gifted a carving, appropriately named ‘Nga Hua o te wananga’ or a place of learning and peace.

It is my pleasure to unveil the carving and officially declare the Karaka Special Treatment Unit open.

ENDS

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