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National's parole policy ineffective and expensive

National's parole policy ineffective and expensive
For New Zealand's most serious offenders like William Bell, Graeme Burton and George Baker National's non-parole policy will have no impact, Corrections Minister Phil Goff said today.

Phil Goff was speaking following the release today of National's policy on Parole.

"They will, on current policy, either never be released, or released only when they are too old and infirm to be of any risk to the public," Phil Goff said.

"For offenders that are dangerous and constitute a risk to public safety, the Parole Act, which was made tougher six years ago, sets out clears guidance. Public safety must be the paramount consideration. No offender may be considered for release before the end of their term if they are regarded a risk to the public.

"The balance was further shifted towards public safety following the Graeme Burton case last year. The Parole Board currently declines 72 per cent of its applications, up from 52 per cent before the new legislation came into effect six years ago. Parole is a privilege to be earned, not a right.

"By definition those that the National Party intends to keep in prison must therefore be inmates not deemed a risk to the public, including those too old or for whatever reason no longer constitute a threat to public safety.

"National also says it wants serious offenders to go straight into the community at the end of their sentence without the management or restrictions which parole involves. Evidence indicates that releasing people at the end of their sentence, without the restrictions that parole places offenders under, involves higher levels of re-offending and puts the public at greater risk," Phil Goff said.

"National cannot pretend that their $315 million in proposed new prison spending, with ongoing costs, is the total sum needed for the expansion and upgrading of the prison system, where numbers are already projected to rise further.

"Four new prisons and 2300 extra beds have already been provided over the last five years. The 71 per cent increase in prison numbers since the late 1990s is consequent on tougher laws and the 2500 boost to police staffing and a much higher police resolution rate of crime following the reversal of the National Government's police cuts in the 1990s.

"Over recent years, the increase in justice spending has been at a higher rate than even health and education. In more difficult economic times, major additional expenditure on prisons is going to be at a cost to other spending priorities or at the expense of tax cuts.

"With an imprisonment rate of 188 for every 100,000, New Zealand's level of imprisonment is, outside the United States, one of the highest in the Western World (compared with Australia at 130 and most European countries at under 100).

"I make no apologies for the tougher laws against criminals which we have put in place. However, it is time to put more spending and resources into preventing crime by dealing with its causes, rather than simply building more and more prisons," Phil Goff said.


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