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Intensive prison treatment unit to cut reoffending

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Corrections
Media statement

13 August 2008

New intensive prison treatment unit to cut re-offending

A new combined drug and special treatment unit for prisoners at Spring Hill Prison in north Waikato is expected to significantly reduce re-offending, Corrections Minister Phil Goff said today.

Mr Goff officially opened the unit, called Puna Tatari, today.

"This combined drug and alcohol unit and special treatment unit for high-risk offenders will treat around 140 inmates a year. It is the fourth intensive drug and alcohol treatment unit for prisoners to open in the past two years, bringing the total now in operation to six - at Rimutaka Prison, Hawke's Bay, Christchurch Men's, Arohata, Waikeria, and Spring Hill," Phil Goff said.

"These units play a vital role in Corrections' efforts to reduce re-offending, and we are already seeing significant results.

"The reconviction rate for prisoners who have been through this drug treatment programme is 13 per cent lower than for untreated prisoners.

"When you consider that 60 per cent of offenders are affected by alcohol or other drugs at the time of their offending and a staggering 83 per cent have abused alcohol or drugs at some point in their lives, the positive impact of such programmes on the overall safety of communities and the potential to significantly reduce the number of victims is clear," Phil Goff said.

"With the opening of this additional unit, Corrections can provide places for 500 prisoners each year on this intensive, six-month addiction treatment course across six units - compared with just 40 places in the late 1990's.

"The course is not an easy option. To be eligible, prisoners must be motivated to confront their addiction and accept the need to do something about it.

"Once they have entered the unit, they must adhere to the contract they signed. They must complete the required number of programme hours and agree to attend other activities and work education programmes when not participating in the DTU programme. They must also submit to drug tests when required.

"This unit also contains a Special Treatment Unit (STU) for high-risk offenders," Phil Goff said.

"Studies show that intensive and targeted special treatment programmes are most effective for high-risk offenders. This STU adds to a similar unit opened at Waikeria Prison last year and will be followed by a third at Christchurch Men's next year.

"The units operate a nine-month programme for violent offenders who are at high-risk of re-offending, giving them the opportunity to confront and tackle the causes of their offending. The programme includes intensive therapy before they are released from prison and aims both to motivate prisoners to change their behaviour and to provide them with skills to help prevent offending in the future.

"Early feedback on the programme is promising. The unit at Waikeria has completed a pilot with all ten prisoners who took part successfully graduating from the programme. A second group of prisoners is being treated at the unit.

"The opening of the third STU next year will bring the number of intensive prison-based special purpose treatment units to 12 (six drug and alcohol units, three STUs, a violence prevention unit at Rimutaka Prison, and Kia Marama and Te Piriti treatment units for child sex offenders). In addition there are seven focus units: five Maori focus units, the Saili Matagi unit for Pacific offenders and a faith-based unit at Rimutaka Prison.

"This investment, alongside the provision of an additional 2370 prison beds over the past nine years at a cost of around $1 billion, represents a major commitment by this government to make our communities safer," Phil Goff said.


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