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Prisons: Finding better ways to spend a Billion

Press Release- for Immediate Release

Finding better ways to spend a Billion $

Finance Minister Bill English’s announcement this week on our woeful fiscal position showed that Corrections has been one of the main portfolios where expenditure has been more than double that of the average increase in Government expenditure over the past 6 years. “ The taxpayer needs to understand how successive Governments have changed penal policies and, at a time when crime rates are falling due to better investment in policing, have somehow ended up in such a ludicrous situation as to be building more prisons”, says Robin Gunston, National Director of Prison Fellowship.

“This 98% increase in spending has not resulted in a dramatic drop-off in recidivism, as little of the increase has found its way into new rehabilitation and reintegration programmes,” he said, “only just in recent months have any new initiatives in work schemes and drug/alcohol programmes in prison been announced by the Government, and these are still a long way off from what is needed”.

“In the short to medium term, at least for the next 10 years, a significant increased Government investment in community-run programmes to continue to treat ex-prisoners with their addiction problems, plus providing them proper supportive accommodation and work will give the best return on national investment”, said Mr Gunston, who is working jointly with other NGOs in the prison sector to increase their capacity and capability to cope with the massively increased demand on reintegration services.

“John Key said recently to a Government-Community Forum I was invited to, that Government should recognise the skills of the Community and Voluntary Sector and there were aspects of societal care that Government should not attempt to get into. Prisoner reintegration is one such area that the community logically has to own, as we are the ones that allow ex-prisoners back into our communities on our terms. New Zealand still does not properly recognise this well-known fact and adequately support those of us in this small NGO sector, who are committing our own time, money and skilled resources to this key need, whilst on the other hand proposing to take areas of the countryside and cover it with concrete and barbed wire!”

“ An investment of some $50,000 per annum by the State in a released prisoner’s welfare, through one of the NGOs who provide for them, for a period of 2 years after release, plus additional care through subsidised addiction centres, will have a positive NPV even at a risk rate of 20%, without considering all the increased societal benefits such as GDP earnings and reduced family support benefits” says Mr Gunston. ”This would be a far, far better long term national investment than building new prisons, which seems to be the focus of this Government.”

“Prison Fellowship is currently launching a major new reintegration programme called Target Communities which builds on the internationally successful, community based, ‘circles of support’ for ex-prisoners” says Mr Gunston, “ it is hoped that Churches, iwi and other community organisations, as well as businesses and social housing trusts will get behind this type of initiative and through it close prisons’ revolving doors that significantly contribute to the growing fiscal deficit we all face.”


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