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Government Urged to Stop Spin on Crime Reduction Goals

Government Urged to Stop Spin on Crime Reduction Goals

“The strong public support for the Reducing Crime Strategy will quickly fade if government continues to put spin on the results”, says Kim Workman, spokesperson for Rethinking Crime and Punishment. “The public needs to be able to trust the information provided by Ministers and government agencies. If they believe they are being hoodwinked, that support will die quickly.”

He was referring to a recent announcement by the Minister of Corrections that government is now over half way to achieving the Better Public Service target of a 25 per cent reduction in reoffending by 2017. Further inquiries show that the reduction does not relate to the numbers of offenders who have stopped offending, but the rate of reoffending.
“When a similar result was announced in November 2013, those familiar with crime statistics could not recall a drop of that magnitude in such a short period of time´ said Mr Workman. “There was agreement that if these figures were correct, a 25% reduction by 2017 would attract international attention.

“ It now turns out, that we are not talking about a 25% reduction in the numbers reoffending, but a reduction in the rate of reoffending – an entirely different thing. The Salvation Army’s State of the Nation Report , “She’ll be Right” exposed the myth. It identified a “modest” reduction in re-conviction rates, and reported that the 12 month re-conviction rate for released prisoners fell from 45.3% to 43.3% between 2010/11 and 2011/12, and the 24 month re-imprisonment rate fell from 39.2% to 37.0% over the same period. Recidivism rates for Maori remain 3–6% lower than the total prison population. The report commented that recent improvements should be seen in a slightly longer context. Although the latest data show mainly positive results, over a longer period the recent improvements are just really a recovery of ground lost over the past three or four years.
The Department of Corrections has since confirmed that the 25% target is a reduction in the rate of reoffending, and is a composite of the 12-month re-imprisonment rate of prisoners (from date of release from a custodial sentence) and the reconviction rate of those serving community sentences (from the date of starting a community sentence).

“Re-imprisonment/reconviction rates for the June 2011 cohort were 27.1% and 30.5% respectively. A 25% reduction in the composite rate of these two produces a target by 2017 of 22.5%. Individual rates have reduced over last two years from 27.1% to 26.7% for custodial sentences and from 31% to 26.8% for community offenders.”

“This is still good news, and we support the efforts of the Department. It is however, important that the public receives full and accurate information about the government’s efforts to achieve goals. That did not happen on this occasion.”

“A recent survey by the Ministry of Justice showed that the public do not trust the justice system. Inflated and misleading reporting of this kind will negate and neutralise the good work being done by justice agencies. As the election approaches, it is even more important that the public have accurate information. “

“We need to avoid spin, and get the public alongside the efforts of government, by providing accurate and honest information.”


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