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Fresh Start reforms in operation: a progress report

Fresh Start reforms in operation: a progress report

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has today publicly released a progress report on Fresh Start Youth Justice reforms.

"These reforms were only implemented eight months ago, so it is early days, but we'd like to provide some transparency about how they're going."

So far at least 1,150 young people have been provided with one or more of the new Fresh Start programmes or new orders.

More than 150 young people have received a new extended order under Fresh Start. It's clear the new orders are being used and more than half of the most serious young offenders have been given the new extended orders

"Fresh Start was introduced to provide better, longer-term interventions for serious young offenders on a clear path to adult prison and a life of crime."

"We knew it wouldn't be easy to change their lives and we expected successes as well as failures, but Fresh Start is certainly proving to be a circuit breaker."

The reforms allow more time to work on the underlying causes of offending.

"These orders let us hold young offenders to account, keep a really close eye on them and provide intensive interventions, all within their local community."

Another vital element to Fresh Start is the introduction of new early intervention programmes to reach young people before offending escalates.

The Fresh Start youth justice reforms were introduced in October 2010.

"The youth justice sector called for more options to deal with a hard-core group of young offenders. So we designed a toolbox of options for Youth Court Judges," says Ms Bennett.

Youth court judges gained new powers to order mentoring programmes, alcohol and drug rehabilitation, parenting education and longer sentences for our most serious young offenders.

"These reforms form the most fundamental change to the youth justice system in the last 20 years," says Ms Bennett.

More community-based programmes are being used, like supported bail and supervision with activity.

"Keeping young people connected to family and community while addressing the underlying causes of offending, provides the best chance of rehabilitation.

"We're also doing more for at-risk youth through Break-Away School Holiday packages, the Prime Minister's Youth Programme and Police programmes.

These programmes are the early intervention end of the spectrum, while the Military Activity Camps are at the other end.

"MACs are the last ditch attempt, where we pull out all the stops to turn these kids around and stop them heading to adult prison."

Of the 17 young people who went through the two concept tests of the MAC programme, four have gone on to prison, and those that have reoffended, 60% have done so less seriously and 53% less frequently.

Two MAC programmes have been run since 1 July 2010, but it is too early to report meaningfully on outcomes from those programmes. Also the second MAC was disrupted due to the Christchurch earthquake.

"Fresh Start orders can be for as long as 18 months with all the follow up interventions, so it's unfair to judge these young people too soon. This Government is determined to keep trying to break entrenched offending."

The paper Fresh Start Reforms in Operation can be found HERE.

[Scoop copy of report: 20july2011freshstartreformsinoperationreport.doc]

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