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Corrections not meeting their targets on reoffending

Corrections “Moving Targets” not helping them achieve on reoffending

Date: 17 February 2016

The Salvation Army report confirms that Corrections are not meeting their targets to reduce reoffending. Too many people are coming back to prison because the reintegration programme run by Corrections is plainly not working. They need to invest in more services outside the wire; this is where reintegration of people’s lives occurs.

The management of community sentences is a particular concern. Kim Workman, strategic adviser to Justspeak says; “At a time when the crime rate is declining, there has been an increase in people who should be firmly managed within the community, ending up in prison.”

When the 25% goal to reduce reoffending was set in 2011, offences against the administration of justice were excluded from reoffending statistics. Offenders on community sentences who failed to report for community work, or breached other conditions were not included in the count, on the basis that it was ‘not a new offence’.

There has been a shift away from prosecuting offenders on community sentences for breaches – instead, handing out warnings. Corrections have not invested the required resources to support offenders to comply with the conditions of their sentence. Avoiding court is a positive step in supporting the reintegration and rehabilitation of offenders, but only if accompanied by proactive management of community sentences. Our guess is that an independent external review will show that offender compliance with community based sentences and electronic monitoring is at an all-time low.

When Community Probation does decide to prosecute, the judiciary are faced with an offender who has breached up to ten times without any active management. Judges tell us they are faced with little alternative but to send them to prison. If they had appeared before the Court earlier, Judges could have exercised other alternatives - but the lack of early active management, forces them to take a more severe approach.

Disturbingly, judges say that they have lost confidence in the management of community based sentences, and are opting for other alternatives, including prison. As ‘Moving Targets’ reports, the data clearly shows the increasing willingness of courts to convict prosecuted offenders (rather than discharge or divert them) and for courts to hand out imprisonment sentences. The proportion of sentences involving a prison term has risen gradually from just over 9% in 2009/10 to almost 11% in the most recent fiscal year. That in turn, has contributed to raising the prison population to an all-time high.

Sending more offenders to prison will not improve reoffending rates. The report points out that the 12-month re-imprisonment rate rose from 25.9% for the year to 30 June 2014 to 28.1% the following year. For Māori released prisoners, the re-imprisonment rate rose from 29.3% to 32.1% over the same period.

Kim Workman comments; “This is what happens when government agencies take a narrow and unethical approach to achieving ridiculous goals, without any strategic vision or understanding of the downstream consequences.” “It is a virtual repeat of what happened ten years ago, when the judiciary lost confidence in the probation service’s management of offenders. The government of the day addressed the issue by introducing a hierarchy of community sentences, which when managed effectively, made a significant reduction in the levels of imprisonment.”

“The Salvation Army should be commended for providing a truthful and transparent picture of what is really happening in the criminal justice sector.” It is this knowledge that can spur us on to improve outcomes for offenders, victims, and their communities and help ensure that Corrections are supported so that they themselves do not become a reoffender.


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