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Prison time – time well spent?

Prison time – time well spent?

One of the primary concerns DCM has for our clients who are sent to prison is the failure of the prison system to use the sentence time constructively. The vast majority of our clients left school at a young age with no qualifications and have never had regular paid work.

If we were serious about prisoner rehabilitation we simply would not allow this opportunity to be missed, as it seems to be, over and over again.

A recent report from the Salvation Army exposed the sad results of New Zealand’s prison system. “The lack of rehabilitative and reintegrative assistance results in high levels of recidivism and nearly three-quarters of all inmates are re-convicted within two years of release,” says the report.

Beyond the Holding Tank is produced by the Salvation Army’s Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit, and explains that, “Once in prison very little is offered by way of work, training, addiction or other rehabilitative programmes.”

It says in 2004/05 only 141 inmates underwent a residential drug and alcohol programme and between 2002 and 2005, 23 work programmes within prisons closed and the percentage of inmates in employment fell by 10 percent.

The report says research strongly shows punishment is ineffective in changing behaviour. “If all prison does is punish, and offers little or nothing by way of rehabilitation, then it will fail to deal with underlying causes of crime and is likely in fact to exacerbate them.”

These matters will, no doubt, be discussed in detail this weekend at the Prison Fellowship National Conference in Silverstream. The conference is titled Beyond Retribution – advancing the law and order debate and brings together a strong line up of judiciary, criminal justice policy makers and community practitioners.

Speakers will address current criminal justice policy, and its effectiveness in reducing re-offending and preserving public safety; Alternatives to the current practices and policies will be explored and also approaches which actively involve the public in the criminal justice system.

Nelson Mandela had this to say about the place of prisons: “No-one truly knows a nation until he has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but how it treats its lowest ones.”


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