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National to boost prison work and rehabilitation

John Key MP National Party Leader

28 October 2008

National to boost prison work and rehabilitation

A National-led Government will greatly boost the number of prisoners learning industry-based skills and double those receiving intensive drug and alcohol treatment, National Party Leader John Key announced today.

"At present, 43% of all prisoners - and 65% of those under 20 - re-offend within a year of release, and we must do more to change that.

"For too many criminals, a prison sentence is just an enforced career break.

"It's a waste of taxpayer money to let these people serve their time without challenging them to change their behaviour - only to release them and then throw them back into prison again when they re-offend.

"That will mean more victims, and it's vital that's changed.

"If we want to reduce crime, imprisonment should not be seen as only a punishment, but also as an opportunity to rehabilitate a captive audience through work, drug and alcohol treatment, and other programmes that offer alternatives to a life of crime."

"Prisoners work just 15 hours per week on average, and that has to change.

"It's not good for anyone to have these people sitting around all day doing nothing."

National will boost the number of prisoners learning industry-based
skills through Corrections Inmate Employment by 1,000 by 2011, at an estimated operating cost of $7 million. That will boost the number of prisoners in skills-based work to 3,500.

"National is also concerned at the lack of drug and alcohol treatment beds for prisoners, considering the strong link between crime and drug and alcohol problems.

"If we are to have any hope of turning around the lives of prisoners and making them useful members of society, we need more treatment facilities so they don't leave prison still addicted and go on to re-offend."

Mr Key says National will double the number of prisoners who are able to receive such treatment to 1,000 by 2011. This will have an estimated operating cost of $3.4 million.

National will also:

* Ensure prisoners who are able to work but refuse are not eligible for parole.

* Carry out a stock-take of support available to released prisoners, including substance abuse treatment, accommodation and employment.

* Talk to private enterprise about opportunities for meaningful work and training for prisoners.

* Investigate whether money earned from inmate labour could be directed into victim reparations, families, or a savings fund for their release

* Re-visit the rules around eligibility for rehabilitation programmes.

* Review screening and treatment of prisoners with mental health problems.

* Expand literacy programmes so more leave prison able to read, write, and do maths better than when they entered.

"Not all prisoners will be able to be rehabilitated, or want to. But for those who do, we can do more to help them, and make New Zealand safer in the process.

"I believe these measures will go a long way to doing that."

Mr Key also says National will be looking for a much better performance from the Corrections Department. "The past decade has seen New Zealanders' confidence in Corrections seriously challenged. There have been too many examples of poor management, and of Corrections acting without the necessary regard for the safety of the public. This must change.

"There is also widespread public scepticism resulting from facilities such as under-floor heating and flat screen televisions now available to prisoners, especially in the new prisons. The National Party believes prisoners should be treated humanely, but that prison facilities should be in keeping with public expectations, reflecting the fact that prisoners are paying a debt to society."

Mr Key confirmed that National will allow competitive tendering for the management of prisons on a case-by-case basis.

For National's prisons policy go to: http://national.org.nz/files/2008/prisons_policy.pdf

ENDS

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