The Justice Minister has described Whanganui as a centre for excellence when it comes to restorative justice.

Whanganui residents met with the Justice Minister Andrew Little last week to discuss ideas about how the justice system could be improved.

Little met with about 60 residents at Stellar Bar on Friday evening .

Reform is on the way for the justice system with a Chester Borrows-led Safe and Effective Justice Programme Advisory Group - Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora to, working to report back to the minister next year on ways to improve the system.

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Little said once that happens it is up to him to then get the best of those ideas through Cabinet.

Little himself was also visiting towns like Whanganui to engage with the public over the topic.

"We can't just keep on locking up more and more people for longer and longer," Little said.

"Our reoffending rate is the same today as it was 20 years ago. So just locking up people for longer isn't an answer to the problems we've got."

Little said each prisoner cost the taxpayer about $110,000 per year and he described 60 per cent of that as a failure.

He talked about the successes he had seen at prisons in the Netherlands and where improvements were needed here.

"I think when you look around and you see that there are other systems that are doing it better in the sense of taking offenders, holding them to account by all means, but saying 'look if you've got issues like mental health issues, literacy issues, things that are preventing you for example from getting a job - get to working on that stuff so that you get off the offending tree and on to being a constructive citizen again'.

"It's very much about engaging over those sorts of issues - there's a good conversation now staring to emerge about that."

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At the meeting Little spoke for about 30 minutes before taking questions over issues such as the over-representation of Māori in the prison system and the mismanagement of people suffering from foetal alcohol syndrome.

Overall, it appeared Little's ideas and answers were received warmly.

Speaking before the event, Little said he had visited Restorative Justice Whanganui and described it as a "centre of excellence when it comes to restorative justice and those sorts of approaches".

Justice Minister Andrew Little talked to Whanganui Residents about why reform was needed in the justice system and where improvements could be made.
Justice Minister Andrew Little talked to Whanganui Residents about why reform was needed in the justice system and where improvements could be made.

Restorative justice is when the victim of a crime meets with the offender with the help of a support worker who makes sure everyone is safe and the discussion stays on track.

"They're trying to promote the idea - particularly with offenders - if there's a chance to meet with a victim and atone for what they've done, [to] try to achieve some sort of reconciliation," Little said.

"That goes a long way for the victim if they're ready for it to actually come to terms with what's happened and trying to deal with any fear that's come out of the offending and for the offender obviously they get to understand the impact of what they're offending is and hopefully tell them or educate them that actually this is what your behaviour does."