Frequently asked questions about reducing re-offending
When offenders leave the management of the Department of Corrections, we don't want to see them back. We want them to return to their communities as law-abiding productive citizens. We aim to reduce the rate of re-offending by 25% from where it was at June 2011. Succeeding will mean 4,600 fewer offenders returning to crime each year, which equates to about 18,500 fewer victims each year. Reducing re-offending can create lasting change in the lives of the offenders we work with and their families and whanau. As well as better lives, it means safer communities and fewer victims. Breaking the cycle of re-offending will help to reduce the financial and social cost of crime in our society.
Reducing re-offending is a theme being tackled by justice systems around the world. Although no other country has attempted or achieved a 25% reduction in re-offending, we wanted a goal that was bold enough to galvanise innovation and change for the better without being too far out of reach. Our goal is ambitious yet achievable.
We measure the rate of re-imprisonment among prisoners within 12 months of release, and the rate of reconviction among community-sentenced offenders within 12 months of the start of their sentence.
Our plan to achieve a 25% reduction in re-offending forms part of the Justice Sector results Action Plan launched in 2012 under the better Public Services programme. This programme focuses the justice sector on achieving Government goals to reduce crime and re-offending by taking innovative approaches and working together to get better results.
We know why offenders go on to commit more crime – too many of the people we see in prison or on community sentences have serious drug and alcohol issues, no job skills, and little education. Too many offenders also face a lack of support when they come out of prison. It’s easy to see why people fall into their old ways. Our programme of work is changing this. We are providing significantly more rehabilitation, including drug and alcohol treatment; we are giving more offenders the skills and experience they need to get jobs; and we are lifting the level of education provided to prisoners so they have what they need to work in a modern economy. We will also be providing more support to prisoners when they leave prison and to offenders serving sentences in the community.
The Department of Corrections can do a lot to reduce re-offending. But we cannot do it alone. We are working with our partners in the community and across the justice, public, and private sectors to move people away from a life of crime. Together, we are helping offenders to turn their lives around. There’s plenty of evidence that prison and community programmes that address the underlying causes of offending can have very positive results, especially when they have the support of family, whanau, and friends.
A number of factors can influence re-offending rates. These include shifts in the demographics of New Zealand’s offender population, changes in external drivers of reconviction and re-imprisonment rates such as policing and sentencing trends, or changes to the legislation that governs the criminal justice pipeline. The successful rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders helps to drive re-offending rates down.
Public safety will always be our bottom line. Our ultimate goal is to reduce re-offending, and this will enhance public safety by reducing the risk to future potential victims.