The Salvation Army has made several recommendations to Corrections to help ex-prisoners re-enter society in a report slamming the current system for "failing prisoners and the public".
The report released today by the organisation's social policy and parliamentary unit calls for more spending on programmes to reduce reoffending, and less spending on custodial sentences.
Corrections chief executive Ray Smith said he welcomed the report, however reducing reoffending was already one of the department's top priorities, with several initiatives in place which support offenders leaving prison.
The report entitled Beyond the Prison Gate recommends making sure every prisoner released has ID, is set up with a benefit if required, has a supporter or mentor, and has accommodation for six months.
It also suggests creating a "Community Action for the Reintegration of Ex-Offenders" (Care) Network and schemes to employ prisoners for six months before release and 12 months after release if they have no other employment.
"The prison gate has for too long been a revolving door rather than a transition into a second chance at life," report author Annaliese Johnston said.
"The cost of prisons is spiralling out of control and doing nothing to reduce reoffending, while refocusing efforts on effective alternatives and reintegration would save the country millions, reduce crime and make the country safer."
The report suggests reviewing the use of the Clean Slate Act, and resourcing alternative reintegration services for Maori ex-prisoners.
"[Reoffending] is not good for anyone, and so far our current approach is failing to make meaningful progress," Johnston said.
"As one of our research participants put it, 'instead of the Government spending over 90 grand to keep us in prison every year, why don't they invest it on keeping us out?'."
Smith said the department was already doing work around several of the Salvation Army's recommendations.
"Reducing re-offending is one of Corrections' top priorities and we are committed to breaking the cycle of re-offending...
"To help people live offence-free in the community, we support them in industries that lead to sustainable work, and increase our interaction with the agencies that provide rehabilitation, treatment and housing."
Services included supported accommodation, in-work support, help with accessing Government agencies and other social services, and help accessing financial and budgeting advice and holistic support services.
In October, the Government announced a $2.5 billion plan for more prison beds over the next five years to cope with the booming prison population.
Smith said there had been a focus on managing offenders in the community in recent years, and the increase in prisoners was due largely to high rates of family violence and the prevalence of gangs.