Corrections Minister Judith Collins blames hard-core group of criminals for failure to reach reoffending target

Corrections Minister Judith Collins is disappointed that a target of reducing reoffending may not be reached. Picture / Mark Mitchell
Corrections Minister Judith Collins is disappointed that a target of reducing reoffending may not be reached. Picture / Mark Mitchell

The Government appears certain to miss its target of cutting reoffending in New Zealand by next year.

The target of a 25 per cent reduction in recidivism by mid-2017 was set in 2012 and is one of the Government's top priorities for the public sector.

The Corrections Department's annual report, released on Friday, showed that reoffending had been cut by just 5.6 per cent from a 2011 baseline.

Corrections Minister Judith Collins said that while any reduction in reoffending was "good news", it was disappointing that progress towards the key target had slowed.

She said the trend had been caused by a smaller, hard-core group of criminals.

"It is ... important to note that the number of offenders who reoffend has been declining over the past five years, with almost 25 per cent fewer reoffenders in the system than in 2011.

"But while overall numbers of offenders entering the Corrections system has been reducing, those that are under sentence are more recidivist and higher-risk."

When targets are reset by the State Services Commission next year, the reoffending target may be changed to focus on reductions in reoffending by prisoner, rather than by offence.

The Corrections Department conceded the target was unlikely to be reached. It blamed the rise in reoffending on factors which were outside of its control.

"The factors identified are the rates of prosecution and conviction, the types of sentences imposed and court disposal times."

The prison population had changed in recent years to contain to fewer first-time inmates and more recidivist offenders, the department said.

After the target was created in 2012, reoffending fell by 12 per cent over the next two years. However, the trend reversed in mid-2014 and has been rising since.

Salvation Army social policy director Ian Hutson said the latest results pointed to a clear failure of the Government's prisoner rehabilitation model.

He said many prisoners continued to face unemployment or homelessness after their release. The Government needed to fund NGOs and iwi with more funding to support former inmates "for months and perhaps years" after their release, Hutson said.

"There are no cheap fixes to correct recidivism as the Government's recently announced plans to spend a further $1 billion on larger prisons illustrates very well."

Collins last week confirmed that 1800 beds would be added to the prison system in response to a booming prison population.

The estimated cost of expanding and managing the prison network was $2.5 billion.

Target:
25 per cent reduction in reoffending by 2017
Progress:
June 2014: 12 per cent
September 2015: 8 per cent
June 2016: 5.6 per cent

- NZ Herald

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