Offender volumes report
Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Corrections
30 April 2007
Offender volumes report
Corrections Minister Phil Goff welcomed the release today of a new Department of Corrections publication providing information on offenders within the Corrections system.
The publication will be updated annually and provides a more comprehensive outline of prison and community sentence trends than the biennial prison census it replaces.
“The report charts a 20 year growth in prison population from 91 per 100,000 people in 1987 to 188 per 100,000 in 2007,” Mr Goff said.
“This level of imprisonment, which is significantly above comparable countries in Europe, and Australia, Britain and Canada, though well below that in the United States, indicates that New Zealand has comparatively tough sentencing laws.
“Imprisonment rates have continued to climb while crime rates other than violence have fallen in recent years.
“The report shows that short term sentences (less than two years) have remained static while there has been a sharp increase in long term sentences and a significant lift in life and preventive detention,” Mr Goff said.
“This reflects a significant toughening in sentencing for serious crimes, including murder, violence, sex and drug offending.
“A much harder line has also been taken against hard core recidivist burglars whose sentences have been sharply increased.
“Inmates are now also serving a much greater proportion of their sentence, particularly since the Parole Act 2002.
“For those serving sentences of more than two years, the proportion of sentence served has increased from 51 per cent in 2002/2003 to 72 per cent in 2006/2007.
“The Parole Act requires the Parole Board not to release inmates who pose an undue risk to the safety of the community.
“More inmates are now remanded in custody rather than being granted bail and are spending longer on remand.
“A statistic which will surprise many is that the proportion of teenage offenders serving time in prison has decreased with the major growth being in inmates aged 30 to 50 years old.
“In 1980, prisoners aged 30 years and over made up 20 per cent of the prison population. In 2007, they comprise 58 per cent. This partly reflects increasing sentence length.
“Maori offenders continue to be represented disproportionately in prison numbers. More than 3 per cent of Maori 23 year-old males are imprisoned, for example, while for European males of the same age this figure is 0.4 per cent.
“The new report will help inform policy makers and public debate on the issue of offending and community and prison sentences.
“It demonstrates not only that sentencing policy has got progressively tougher but also that longer sentences have been targeted at more serious offenders,” Mr Goff said.