A prisoner's unanswered pleas for rehabilitation treatment has led to criticism of the Corrections Department's record on reducing reoffending, which has shown little progress in the past five years.

United Future leader Peter Dunne yesterday questioned whether there was enough focus on preparing prisoners for returning to society after he received a desperate plea for help from a prisoner serving a five-year sentence who is seeking psychological treatment.

"My offender plan requires me to have psychological therapy, also the New Zealand Parole Board has asked for the same," the letter said.

"After almost 3 years, 50 to 100 letters to the prison administration, the director of psychological services, regional and local management, ministers of the Crown, I'm yet to engage in one-on-one counselling.

"I have made it clear to one and all that I want to take part in any rehabilitative programming, yet despite my efforts, nothing has happened."

Mr Dunne, who did not want to name the prisoner or the prison, said he had heard of a number of similar cases over the years.

Given the prisoner's will to reform, "it does seem that something is going wrong somewhere".

"The issue has been around access to proper rehabilitation services while in prison. What this letter shows is that, despite all the talk, it's still not happening in sufficient numbers to be making a big impact."

Last week the annual Salvation Army "state of the nation" report showed little or no progress in reducing the rates of reoffending.

Nearly half (48 per cent) of released prisoners reoffend within 12 months, and 37 per cent end up back in prison within two years.

The rates have changed little in the past five years.

Spending on rehabilitation and reintegration programmes for each prisoner has fluctuated over the same period: it was $10,048 in 2005, $7896 in 2007 and $9417 last year.

Last year Corrections Minister Judith Collins announced a programme to double the number of prisoners who can have drug and alcohol treatment - from 500 to 1000 - by next year. Other measures included rehabilitation for shorter-term prisoners, and boosting to 1000 the number of prisoners learning work industry skills.

Ms Collins said the law prevented her from intervening in individual cases, but it was important to pass the prisoner's letter on to the department to be dealt with.

"I am always concerned if there is a genuine situation where someone wants to get rehabilitated [but is not receiving treatment]. It's important for us to get as much rehabilitation as we can for those who want to be positive and want to change their lives."

Prison Fellowship NZ national director Robin Gunston said it was common for prisoners trying to reform to struggle to find help.

"We've noticed a subtle shift. Now it's all about public safety, more resources in razor wire and security systems, more training for staff in handling safety issues, rather than an emphasis on helping people regain their lives."

WHAT THE STUDY FOUND

* The majority of young offenders who received a first Youth Court supervision order between January 2002 and June 2007 were male (87 per cent) and 15 or 16 years old (34 per cent and 44 per cent respectively). Maori (55 per cent) were over-represented relative to their proportions in the population aged 14 to 16 years.

* Approximately 90 per cent of the offences leading to the Youth Court supervision order were of maximum or medium/maximum seriousness. The majority of offences were categorised as violent (42 per cent) or property (50 per cent) offences.

* Young people who reoffended usually did so in the first two years after the supervision order was imposed, and the likelihood of reoffending after this was very much lower.

* Four out of five of the young people reoffended within the follow-up period.

* On average, the reoffending was less serious than the offence that led to the initial supervision order.

* Offenders who had a supervision with activity order were less likely to commit another offence within six months of the start of the order than were those on supervision.

* Boys were more likely than girls to reoffend across all time periods.

* The CYF Southern region tended to have higher reoffending rates than Northern, Midlands and Central.

* Young people were more likely to reoffend if the offence leading to the Youth Court supervision order was scored as medium/maximum seriousness than as maximum seriousness.

* Those whose index offence was categorised as property had higher reoffending rates than those with violent offences.

* Male youth offenders reoffended sooner than their female counterparts; European and Maori youth offenders committed another offence sooner than their Pacific counterparts; and youth in the CYF Southern region reoffended sooner than those in the Northern, Midlands or Central regions.

* For those young people who reoffended, the number of offences committed following a Youth Court supervision order ranged between one and 19, with most reoffenders committing one (21 per cent to 25 per cent) or two (17 per cent to 22 per cent) subsequent offences.

* Eighty-four per cent of the reoffenders went on to commit offences as early adults, although proportionally fewer young people who had been in a youth justice residence did so.

RECIDIVISM

Little to no change in preventing reoffending

12-MONTH RELEASE TO RECONVICTION RATE

2005 - 42.6 per cent
2006 - 41.1 per cent
2007 - 42.3 per cent
2008 - 43.5 per cent
2009 - 47.6 per cent

24-MONTH REIMPRISONMENT RATE

2005 - 37.2 per cent
2006 - 39.2 per cent
2007 - 38.8 per cent
2008 - 39.7 per cent
2009 - 36.8 per cent