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Common Sense needed in Corrections approach

Common Sense needed in Corrections approach
19th August 2019

“Community safety must be the paramount consideration when releasing an offender, and the only way for that to be achieved is for the offender to acknowledge their crimes.”

The Department of Corrections has launched a major new strategy focussed on treating prisoners with respect and giving them more access to whanau.

Hōkai Rangi is a five-year strategy which aims to drastically cut the number of Māori in prison from 52% down to 16% - to match the overall Māori population.

A key focus is whānau and prisoners will get more visits with their families, and more people that they can call on whilst behind bars.

Sensible Sentencing Trust National Spokesperson Jess McVicar says while this could be a good positive step in ensuring the offender maintains a healthy relationship with their whanau, we have to remember that a major part of rehabilitation and reintegration is recognition of the offending and the long term effects it has on victims and survivors.

“An important step in an offender’s rehabilitation is to have genuine remorse for the crime they committed, and they cannot have that without recognising the effects their crime has had on both the victims and the offender’s whanau.”

Jess says without placing focus on the reasons the crime was committed in the first place and who it affected, a positive safety release plan cannot be considered complete.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis said "The biggest change Hōkai Rangi brings is the idea that we are now going to treat the person and not just their crime” and "The Corrections system has focused on punishing people and treating them like the crime they have committed and we know that approach has not worked."

Jess says we cannot and must not remove accountability from the offender, “We must face up to our faults to make a positive change; that applies in all aspects of life, so for offenders to work on understanding and comprehending their crimes will mean the safety plan is far more likely to be successful, and the focus on rehabilitation can be put in place to safeguard they do not put themselves in the same situation when released.”

“If we ignore the reasons a crime was committed or hide the fact of what the offender has done, then that is not going to give assurance the community or whanau feel safe. If we keep playing the blame game, we continue to excuse an offenders actions and behaviour”

Jess says the trust is not surprised that Kelvin Davis made no mention of protecting Victims or the Community being a part of this strategy.

“Community safety must be paramount consideration when releasing an offender, and the only way for that to be achieved is for the offender to acknowledge their crimes and to understand what controls they need to put in place to be able to be a positive law abiding citizen.” ENDS

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