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National misleads on Corrections

14 July, 2006 Media Statement

National misleads on Corrections A&D, rehab courses

The Corrections Department is making significant in-roads in boosting the number of alcohol and drug courses that are available in prisons, Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor said today.

"National's Law and Order spokesman Simon Power is ignoring the facts when he knocks Corrections for not acting to address the demand for drug and alcohol problems in prison.

"In the nine months to March this year, random drug testing in prisons recorded the lowest number of positive tests since testing began – at 15.6 per cent. This compares with 17.4 per cent last year and 34 per cent when National was in power in 1998.

"As well as that, the number of drug and alcohol treatment placements in prisons is to increase to 250 by the end of the year.

Mr O'Connor said that ensuring prisoners receive effective rehabilitation programmes and that they are provided with sufficient work and training opportunities are a vital part of the Corrections Department's work.

In the past few months, the government has made several announcements outlining new initiatives besides the new A&D placements, including:

- An extensive work employment strategy for prisoners, which will, over the next three years: increase from 40 per cent to 60 per cent the number of prisoners in work activities, boost employment hours from 2.9 million to 4.19 million, and lift the number of NZQA units attained from 4800 to 16,632.
- Replacing low-performing criminogenic programmes (designed to get prisoners to address their offending) with more intensive programmes that are better targeted.

"This year, we have taken great strides towards revamping and increasing these programmes and work activities, which can go a long way to incentivising offenders to take responsibility for themselves and turn their lives around," Mr O'Connor said.

These latest steps add to initiatives already underway, including:
- The addition of 16 Corrections reintegration workers, who provide a link between prisoners close to release and outside agencies, such as Housing New Zealand and the Salvation Army.
- Nineteen teams of Work and Income work brokers to support offenders finding employment on their release from prison.

Corrections is re-doubling its efforts to rehabilitate offenders, Mr O'Connor said.

"The Labour-led Government has placed a huge emphasis on protecting the public by making prisons more secure, including an investment of $1 billion. This has been to good effect – breakout escapes have reduced from 31 in 1997/98 to 11 in the past year.

"This is still our number one priority. But with security levels better than ever before, we are now in a position to direct more energies towards getting offenders to contribute to society in a good way."

ENDS

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