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Criminal Bar Association on Andrew Little Statement

Press Statement

The Criminal Bar Association of New Zealand strongly supports the Minister of Justice Andrew Little’s willingness to consider that “Law and Order” policies have not achieved the objectives sought.

The CBA President Len Andersen has said “Minister Little has recognised the rapid rise in prison numbers reflects a failure of punitive penal policy over the last 30 years. The unnecessary mass incarceration of New Zealanders should be a concern to all New Zealanders.”

Those who work in the criminal law know first-hand some of the disastrous consequences of the high levels of incarceration in NZ. Our crime rates are broadly similar to other countries, yet our imprisonment rate is much higher than other OECD nations (we incarcerate 220 prisoners per 100,000). It costs $900 million a year to imprison 10,000 inmates at $90,000 a year and any reduction in this spending frees money for more productive uses.

The CBA also commended Minister Little’s frank acknowledgement that the disproportionate numbers of Maori in prison – more than 50% of the population – revealed systemic problems.

While this is something that has been known for some time, it is rarely acknowledged but is an important first step towards fixing the problem.

The CBA would like two major steps taken to reduce the current prison population:

1. Relaxation of the bail rules so that Defendants who have pleaded not guilty to an offence are granted bail unless there is a real risk that they will abscond or they constitute a danger to the community if remanded on bail; and

2. Resources made available to improve literacy, addiction problems and mental health problems of prisoners so they can cope with society and have real alternatives to criminal behaviour when released.

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