The Corrections Act 2004 (external link) came into force on 1 June 2005 and repealed and replaced the Penal Institutions Act 1954. It introduced reforms that reflect modern conditions and approaches to how the Department manages offenders and is in line with other recent criminal justice reforms. The Corrections Act emphasises that public safety is of central importance and now requires that the Department has to consider victims’ interests when managing offenders.
The key provisions of the Act include:
Corrections Regulations 2005
While the Act contains matters of principle and a policy framework for the corrections system, the Corrections Regulations 2005, which also came into force on 1 June 2005, provide for matters of detail and implementation.
The new Regulations are made pursuant to the Corrections Act 2004 and replace the Penal Institutions Regulations 2000. Many of those regulations have been carried forward, but the new Regulations include provisions on some matters not previously dealt with in regulations, because of changes made in the Corrections Act. Some matters referred to in the repealed Regulations, for example, those dealing with prisoners’ minimum entitlements, are not in the new Regulations because their content has been incorporated into the Corrections Act itself.
The Regulations comprise 14 parts and 8 schedules. The main areas covered are:
Key provisions of the Regulations that are new or contain substantive amendments include:
Origins of the Corrections Law Reform
Since the early 1990s it had been recognised that corrections legislation was becoming increasingly out-dated and was failing to reflect the modern correctional environment. In July 2000, the Minister of Corrections agreed to the development of a new Corrections Bill, and Cabinet approved its inclusion in the Government's 2001 legislative programme. New legislation was needed to:
Development of the Corrections Act
Early work focused on identifying the major areas that would need to be considered in developing the new legislation and a series of issues papers were produced within the Department. These papers considered previous New Zealand policy reviews, such as Prison Review – Te Ara Hou: The New Way (1989), and corrections legislation in comparable overseas jurisdictions, such as in Canada and in Australian states.
Public consultation played a major role in the development of policy for the Corrections Bill. A discussion paper, Better Corrections Law for New Zealand, was widely distributed in April 2001, and 182 written submissions were received in response. There were also eleven focus groups convened and four public meetings held, involving individuals and groups with an interest in corrections issues. The feedback received in the public consultation exercise was compiled in Better Corrections Law: Summary of Submissions on Better Corrections Law for New Zealand, published in July 2001 and was fully considered in the development of policy proposals.
A series of papers was submitted to Cabinet in late 2001 and early 2002 to obtain policy approval for the new legislation. A wide range of Government agencies was consulted in the process and, following Cabinet approval, the Minister signed out instructions to the Parliamentary Counsel Office for drafting the new Bill.
The Department provided comment on successive drafts of the Bill between April 2002 and February 2003. This process of refining the Bill involved extensive consultation within the Department, including a series of workshops to address difficult issues, and consultation with other government agencies.
The Corrections Bill was introduced into the House in March 2003. It received its first reading in April and was referred to the Law and Order Committee. The Committee considered 41 submissions from individuals and organisations and received extensive oral and written advice from Department of Corrections officials. Because the Committee was evenly divided on support for the Bill, it was reported back without amendment in December 2003.
The Bill received its second reading on 4 May 2004. At the committee stage the Minister introduced a Supplementary Order Paper that made a number of significant changes to the Bill. Some of these were matters that had already been considered by the Select Committee, such as the provisions for information sharing with Police and information matching with the Immigration Service. Others were added by the Minister, with Cabinet approval, following discussions with other political parties over support for the Bill in the House – for example, providing for consultation with significantly affected communities and amending the purpose clause to include a reference to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
The Bill passed its third reading on 26 May 2004 and received the royal assent on 3 June 2004. It came fully into force on 1 June 2005.
Development of the Regulations
Substantive work on the development of the new Regulations commenced in 2003. A series of papers was produced by the Department’s Policy Development Group, with extensive input from other Groups and Services, and approved by the Departmental Corrections Act Implementation Committee. Drafting instructions were issued to the Parliamentary Counsel Office in August 2004. The Department then received and commented on successive drafts of the Regulations. This process involved extensive consultation within the Department, to ensure that the operational impact of new and amended provisions was fully considered. In February 2005, as part of the Cabinet approval process, several Government agencies with interests in aspects of the Regulations were also consulted.
The Regulations were made by the Governor-General on 7 March 2005 and were notified in the New Zealand Gazette on 10 March 2005. They came into force on 1 June 2005.
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