Parliament

Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search

 

Goff: Imprisonment - only part of the answer

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Corrections

Speech Notes

EMBARGOED TO 5.45pm 26 August 2008


Imprisonment - only part of the answer


Speech for the launch of book: "The Prison System and its Effects, Wherefrom, Whereto, and Why?" Grand Hall, Parliament Buildings

Welcome and thank you for joining me in the Grand Hall this evening. It is a pleasure to be here to launch Professor Tony Taylor's book The Prison System and its Effects.

Shortly I'll ask Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Pat Walsh to say a few words and Professor Taylor to introduce and speak about it. Following that, the book will be officially launched.

The Prison System and its Effects provides a history of incarceration and highlights the constantly recurring tension between proponents of retributive and reformative philosophies. As Minister of Corrections, and prior to that, as Minister of Justice, this is a debate that I am very familiar with.

I have been told by many people that the solution to crime is to make prison conditions harsher to act as an effective deterrent.

There is no evidence at all that harsh imprisonment reduces offending. But the concept does have simplistic appeal.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, has won fame for shackling prisoners, making them wear pink underwear and accommodating them in tents. A study commissioned by Joe Arpaio himself and carried out by Arizona State University however has found that the policies have been totally ineffective in reducing re-offending rates.

The prison population of the Sheriff's Maricopa County has grown each year of his tenure and now stands at over 10,000. Incredibly, the crime rate there now tops that of both New York and Los Angeles.

This mirrors research conducted by the Department of Corrections, which showed that while imprisonment is a punishment, it is not a deterrent to offenders. Most offenders do not think about the consequences of their actions. Imprisonment protects the community from actions by the offender while incarcerated. By itself, it does not however change behaviour and thus does not protect the community against future reoffending.

The key role of imprisonment is to protect the public by keeping offenders who present a risk to the community out of circulation and to punish those who have offended against their community. It also needs to address the reasons inmates offended in the first place.

The best of our rehabilitation programmes in prison such as the Kia Marama sex offenders programme and new drug and alcohol addiction programmes have been effective in reducing reoffending.

The enactment of the Sentencing and the Parole Acts 2002, imposed much longer sentences on the worst offenders and required the safety of the public to be the paramount consideration in parole decisions. The new Bail Act in 2000 also took a tougher line, reversing the onus of proof so that hard core recidivist offenders had to prove to the Court why they should get bail.

The result of these changes, and a huge increase in police numbers, unsurprisingly, has been an increase in prisoner numbers. In ten years, prisoner numbers have climbed from 4,500 to 7,700 - a 71 percent increase.

To accommodate this increasing population, the Government has invested close to one billion dollars constructing four new prisons and increasing capacity on existing sites. In total we have added 2,345 beds to the prison system since 2004, the largest increase in prison capacity in this country's history.

Given these facts, it's hard to sustain the views of Sensible Sentencing and other groups that this country is soft on law and order. Our imprisonment rates are significantly higher than comparable European countries or Australia.

But if the real goal is a safer community, less crime and few victims, we need to look beyond higher and higher levels of imprisonment to achieve that.

Putting more resources into early intervention, addressing criminogenic factors at the start of a child's life such as dysfunctional and abusive families is probably the best long term response to reducing crime.

And there is more we can do even after a person offends, including keeping lower risk, less serious offenders out of prison to avoid the negative influence of a criminal peer group and the extension of successful restorative justice programmes.

In 2006, the Government launched the Effective Interventions package. Effective Interventions is a range of initiatives designed to reduce offending and find more effective sanctions for less serious offenders.

This includes more community-based sentence options for judges supported by electronic monitoring, to use instead of prison sentences. Additional investment was provided to open two new Drug Treatment Units and two new Special Treatment Units aimed at providing intensive treatment to prisoners with addictions or violent convictions. There has also been a strong effort to increase the number of prisoners provided with work skills and experience and work habits.

Community-based alcohol and drug treatment services for offenders serving non-prison sentences have also been expanded. These sorts of programmes have helped reduce reoffending.

Professor Taylor outlines in The Prison System and its Effects a range of further options to explore but acknowledges there are no simple or easy answers. His book however is a significant contribution to the debate and I welcome the opportunity to help in its launch tonight.

I would now like to invite Professor Pat Walsh to say a few words.


Thank you Professor Walsh and Professor Taylor for your insights.

The Prison System and its Effects provides important analysis on imprisonment - its purpose and its effectiveness.

I hope that it will inform and advance the public debate in an informed manner and congratulate Professor Taylor for the work he has put into it.

It gives me great pleasure to officially launch The Prison System and its Effects: Wherefrom, Whereto, and Why.


ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On Why Labour Isn’t Responsible For Barnaby Joyce

As a desperate Turnbull government tries to treat the Barnaby Joyce affair as a Pauline Hanson fever dream – blame it on the foreigners! We’re the victims of the dastardly New Zealand Labour Party! – our own government has chosen to further that narrative, and make itself an accomplice.

Evidently, the National government is similarly desperate for anything that might discredit or derail the Ardern juggernaut, even if that means throwing Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne under a bus More>>

 

Treaty: Agreement In Principle Signed With Moriori

“The Crown acknowledges Moriori was left virtually landless from 1870, hindering its cultural, social and economic development. The Crown also acknowledges its contribution to the myths that the people of Moriori were racially inferior and became extinct." More>>

ALSO:

Susan Devoy: Call For Inquiry Into State Abuse Reaches UN

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy is in Geneva and has asked a United Nations committee to urge the New Zealand government to initiate an inquiry into the physical and sexual abuse of children and disabled people held in state institutions. More>>

ALSO:

(Not National): Cross-Party Agreement On Pike River Re-Entry

The commitment was signed this afternoon by the leaders of Labour, United Future, The Maori Party, and the Green Party and, together with the earlier commitment by New Zealand First, means that there is now a Parliamentary majority behind the families’ fight for truth and justice. More>>

ALSO:

Earlier:

Mental Health Foundation: 'Positive First Steps'

“The heavy reliance on pilots and targeted approaches in the package announced today makes it plain that additional funding will be needed so that activities that work can be made available throughout New Zealand,” says Mr Robinson. More>>

ALSO:

'Gift' To NZ: Synod Considers Third Christchurch Cathedral Option

Members of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch will consider three, not two, options regarding the future of the ChristChurch Cathedral... The new option is for the Synod to gift the Cathedral building to the Government for the people of New Zealand. More>>

ALSO:

PM's Presser: Labour's Water Policy 'Reckless', Says English

The Labour Party has "bumbled into" its policy to charge for water in a "reckless" way that would put a Labour-led government on a collision course with both Maori and other water users, Prime Minister Bill English said at his weekly post-Cabinet press conference.. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

Featured InfoPages

Opening the Election