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Coalition for Prison Reform on the Cards

Coalition for Prison Reform on the Cards

“A Coalition for Prison Reform is likely to be established within the next few months” in the view of Kim Workman, National Director, Prison Fellowship New Zealand.

“Following meetings with key organisations in Wellington and Auckland, there is a clear mandate to establish a national Coalition for Prison Reform. There was strong support for an inclusive network of organisations and people who want to engage in an informed and constructive “rethink” about crime and punishment in New Zealand, and in particular, the role and purpose of prison in our society.

The standout feature of these meetings, has been the strength and consistency of support for looking at alternatives to prison. That support straddled both conservative and liberal organisations. There was agreement between such organisations as the Maxim Institute, (a conservative policy think tank), the Council for Civil Liberties, between the mainstream churches (Anglican and Catholic) and Pentecostal Churches, and across provider organisations such as the NZ Drug Foundation and Victim Support. These organisations want to be engaged in ongoing discussion, and support the idea of a coordinated effort to change current thinking, and to develop alternatives to imprisonment.

“There has been a strong shift in public opinion over the last six months.”, said Mr Workman. While everyone agreed that public safety was a major consideration, the general view was that of the 7,500 people currently imprisoned, less than 500 were a serious threat to society. New Zealanders cannot afford to continue imprisoning people who can more effectively be dealt with through community work, treatment for mental health or drug dependency problems, or through alternative community-based rehabilitation. There was also a call to review the role and rights of victims in the judicial system, and more integrated and comprehensive restorative justice programs across the criminal justice system including prisons.

“These issues will be discussed at the Prison Fellowship National Conference, to held in Upper Hutt in two weeks time. The formation of a Coalition for Prison Reform will undoubtedly be discussed. Over 200 people are currently registered, including senior public servants, politicians, Maori and iwi representatives and service providers. “

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