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Corrections Introduces the Offender Volumes Report

For Immediate Release 30 April 2008


Corrections Introduces the Offender Volumes Report


The Department of Corrections today released its first Offender Volumes Report.

The Department will publish the Offender Volumes Report (OVR) annually and it will be available on the Department’s public website www.corrections.govt.nz.

“The new Offender Volumes Report replaces the old biennial Prison Census that was carried out from 1987-2003,” says Manager Strategy and Research Peter Johnston.

“The OVR includes trends for both offenders being managed in the community, and trends in the prison population.

“By drawing on historic sentence and release records, the Offender Volumes Report shows trends across Corrections’ work since 1980.”

The Offender Volumes Report provides breakdowns of offenders by age, gender, ethnicity, offence type, sentence type and length, and a range of other variables.

“As well as providing ‘snapshot’ counts of offenders, the OVR gives a perspective of annual ‘throughput’ providing a clearer picture of how the various trends have developed over time,” says Dr Johnston.

“The Offender Volumes Report is based on tracking the progress of each offender throughout their contact with the Department.

“Not only does the OVR allow users to look at the offender population the Department manages each year, it puts these trends in the context of all offenders the Department has ever managed since 1980. This allows a clearer understanding of how offender numbers are changing with time and not just changes to offence counts.

“For example the OVR shows the relative number of repeat offenders as compared to first time offenders that the Department has managed in the 2006-2007 year.

“The report tracks the volumes of offenders who pass through the various areas that the Department has to manage. The Department will use this aspect of the report to help shape policy and assist with planning.”

Key trends that have emerged from the report include the increasing volumes of offenders managed currently on community sentences and orders, the steadily increasing prison population over the last 27 years, and the fact that the average age of prisoners is increasing.

ENDS

For independent comment please contact Deputy President of the Law Commission Dr Warren Young (04) 914 4338 or (021) 557783.

The Offender Volumes Report is available at the following link:
http://www.corrections.govt.nz/public/research/offender-volumes-report-2007/

Please see below for a list of Frequently Asked Questions

--

Frequently Asked Questions


How often will the Offender Volumes Report be published?

The OVR will be published annually around July and made available on the Department’s public website.


Is a print version available?

No, at this point we are only expecting to provide electronic material via the internet.


What does the Offender Volumes Report record?

The OVR looks at trends right across the Department including the prison sentenced and community sentenced populations since 1980, remand prisoner population since 1998 and offender timelines. This information gives the Department and other interested parties an indication of critical trends in the offender population, and how successive policies may have influenced these long term trends.


What are the main trends in the OVR?

There is a great deal of information summarised in the OVR. Some of the trends include:

* The prison population has been steadily growing for most of the last 30 years

* Long-term prison sentences (2 years or more) have increased markedly since 1980 with very rapid growth since 2004

* The number of remanded prisoners has increased markedly since 1998.

* Maori are overrepresented in prison: 3.2% of all Maori males aged 23 were in prison as at 30 June 2007.


Why was the census replaced?

The Prison Census was discontinued in 2003 in response to the logistics of a census-type process, and opportunities to improve the breadth and quality of offender data reported using operationally collected and available data sources. The trends and information in the OVR will be far more useful in showing where Corrections’ efforts are affecting offenders and highlighting areas where further policy development is required.


Where can I find trends on offender marriage and parenting that used to be in the old prison census?

The OVR only provides analysis around top quality Corrections’ operational data and does not include such trends. The department is exploring with Statistics NZ the development of a new publication based largely on information collected in their national census which, when released, will have the advantage of allowing comparison of such traits with the same questions asked on the same day as the rest of the population.


Why is there no data on bail or convictions or fines?

The OVR is very much a Corrections’ view of the Justice sector and is based on the data available to Corrections. Bail, convictions and fines information are not areas that Corrections manage. Information on these subjects can be found on the Ministry of Justice website.


Why do the numbers seem so different to those reported in other places?

The OVR is offender centric, this means that the OVR counts an offender only once on a single day but in other reports the offender may be counted multiple times due to being managed under multiple orders and sentences with multiple convictions and offences. The OVR uses a one-day-one-status approach to counting offenders which is not used in other Justice sector reports.


Why has the prison population grown?

There are a number of reasons for this, including growth in national population, growth in serious crime, and policy changes (For example, the 2002 Parole Act and Sentencing Act). The latter changes to legislation has meant, for example, that the Parole Board has greater discretion to keep offenders in prison. As a result, violent offenders are staying in prison longer. Further, it is apparent that more offenders are being placed in custodial remand than ever before. Corrections is working with the other Justice sector agencies on ways to limit unnecessary growth, but there are no quick fixes to these issues.


How do the trends from this report compare to trends from other jurisdictions?
As far as the Department is aware, no other national corrections or justice service has ever produced a report such as this one. This is a unique report produced by Corrections


What makes this report format unique?
The most unique aspect is the ability to consider the current annual cohort of offenders in the comparative context of all offenders who have been managed by the Department at one or more times. This enables the Department to understand issues such as:

* What proportion of all known offenders are currently managed by the Department

* Have more or fewer new offenders entered the offender pool this year than in previous years?

* Are more or fewer offenders ceasing criminal careers?

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