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Civil Detention Order for serious sex offenders

Civil Detention Order for serious sex offenders still requires some work

“There is clearly a need to keep the public safe from serious recidivist sex offenders” says Kim Workman, Director of Rethinking Crime and Punishment”. “The Minister’s proposal to introduce Civil Detention Orders for this very small group of offenders makes sense.” He was commenting on a call from Family First on Justice Minister Judith Collins to honour a pre-election promise to introduce Civil Detention Orders for serious recidivist sex offenders.

“The greater challenge for community organisations like Family First is to consider how they should respond to the much larger group of treated sex offenders, who are very unlikely to reoffend provided they are both supported and held accountable by the communities in which they live. Communities that are repelled by these offenders, and harass or stigmatise them, increase the likelihood that they will reoffend. The example set by Jesus when he touched and healed the leper, is as relevant now as it was 2000 years ago.”

“There are currently around 800 people in prison for sex offending. Of that group, less than 2% (around 15 offenders) would qualify as candidates for a Civil Detention Order. In the past, the Department of Corrections provided 24 hour community surveillance when these offenders were released, at a taxpayer cost of around $250,000 a year. That is clearly unsustainable, and detention in a secure facility is a both more efficient and more effective.”

“However, it will not be an easy thing to do. There will be some complex issues to resolve. Because they are not legally prisoners, but civil detainees, they are not subject to the same regime as prisoners, and cannot be treated the same. They would need a separate detention facility, built either within an existing prison, or outside of it. However, offenders of this kind are usually low-maintenance – they are compliant, and maintain a low prison profile.”

Kim Workman
Rethinking Crime and Punishment

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