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Fewer Prisoners Equals Less Crime

Media Release : Fewer Prisoners Equals Less Crime - Time to Rethink Sentencing Policy

Date : 18th September 2014


In its latest blog, ‘Abolishing Parole and other Crazy Stuff’,’ at http://blog.rethinking.org.nz/2014/09/krill-and-womble-independent-policy.html, Rethinking Crime and Punishment urges government to rethink its approach to releasing prisoners.
“The public expectation is that the excellent reductions in the crime rate should produce a parallel reduction in the prison population; but it has not.” says spokesperson, Kim Workman. While the Minister of Corrections confidently predicted in March this year that there would be 600 less prisoners by 2017, the current prison population stands at 8,754, an increase of 119 prisoners on the 8,535 that were in prison 12 months ago.”

What we need is a specific target to reduce the prison population 25% by December 2017. If it is possible to reduce reoffending by 25% over a three year period, it is certainly possible to reduce the prison population by the same amount.

“Efforts over the last ten years to reduce the US prison population has led to some startling results. Recent research shows that over this period three States, New York, New Jersey and California, reduced the size of their prison population by over 25% , yet the crime rates in those States have declined faster than the national average.”

“These prison population reductions have come about through a mix of changes in policy and practice designed to reduce admissions to prison and lengths of stay. The experiences of these states reinforce that criminal justice policies, and not crime rates, are the prime drivers of changes in prison populations. They also demonstrate that it is possible to substantially reduce prison populations without harming public safety.”

Strategies that were successfully employed in the USA included;

• Legislation which reduced the length of prison sentences for non-violent offenders by 20%;

• Reinvesting justice, health and social service resources into community based rehabilitation programmes, as an alternative to imprisonment;

• Providing early release for the elderly and terminally ill;

• Legislating for less restrictive parole measures;

• Legislation which encourage the Parole Board to undertake rehabilitation post release. Prisoners who do not receive rehabilitation programmes as directed by the Parole Board, should be released on parole, and be required to undergo the programme post-release.

“While it might seem intuitive that reducing prison populations would negatively impact public safety – or conversely, that declining crime rates would drive down levels of incarceration – such a relationship has generally been shown to be relatively weak. This is because just as forces beyond crime rates affect incarceration levels, forces beyond incarceration affect crime.”

Link: http://blog.rethinking.org.nz/2014/09/krill-and-womble-independent-policy.html,

Kim Workman
Rethinking Crime and Punishment

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