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Manurewa Ripe for Justice Reinvestment Project

Manurewa Ripe for Justice Reinvestment Project – Rethinking Crime and Punishment

Government needs to take a radical approach to those communities with a high proportion of imprisoned adults, said Project Leader of Rethinking Crime and Punishment, Kim Workman. Manurewa clearly qualifies as a community deserving additional attention."

"One of the concepts introduced recently into New Zealand by visiting British prison experts Baroness Vivien Stern and Professor Andrew Coyle. They pointed out that while the United States has the highest rate of imprisonment in the world, at 1 in 100 adults, or 1,000 per 100,000, it has provided some hope for change through a concept called Justice Reinvestment, a project of the Council of State Governments Justice Center (a national body which draws on extensive research to develop criminal justice policy)."

"As Maori communities have long advocated, it involves diverting the funding that would otherwise go to imprisonment back into the community from which the offenders come – usually small and clearly identifiable problem-spots with high levels of unemployment and welfare support, producing a large percentage of those breaking the law. "

"Professor Coyle tells how in Oregon a Department of Corrections staff member called Danny Mahoney became disillusioned when he realized he was buying land to build prisons 14 years in advance, ie he was helping to build prisons for the children in the local kindergarten who were playing alongside his own. When he realized that even schools did not even plan building programmes that far ahead, he led a call to invest in the future of the children and work to avoid them going to jail."

"Eventually the Oregon state government awarded a bulk grant to the county, equivalent to what it spent on the county's proportion of offenders going to the state prison. If the county continued to send as many people to jail as previously, it would be required to give the money back, otherwise it could choose to spend the money on better services and facilities for young people."

"As a result there has been a 72% drop in juvenile incarceration from the county, resulting from redeployment of community supervision and new investments in civil society and neighbourhood vitalization," says Professor Coyle. A similar experiment is underway in Connecticut.

"A number of states are now experimenting with policies that will cut costs, reduce the inmate population, and reinvest the funding to communities to which these prisoners will come on release." Professor Coyle has also been closely involved with a similar scheme in Glascow, Scotland.

"In Glascow, just three wards produced a significant number of prisoners. This information from Connecticut led to growing political consciousness, recommendations for reducing pressure on prison populations, and re-investing anticipated savings."

Kim Workman considers the concept would work well in New Zealand. "Strategies to support community plans, increase the capacity of mental health and addiction services, and community outreach programmes, have had a positive effect. "We went from having one of the fastest growing prison systems in the country, to having one shrinking faster than any other."

"As a result of their awareness of alternative systems working internationally, Prof Coyle and Baroness Stern are confident that positive change can also be made in New Zealand."


ENDS

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