2.4 Post-sentencing processes

As described above, the kind of discretionary decision-making which might play a role in criminal justice outcomes does not cease at the point of sentencing, but features at a number of points thereafter. Initial sentencing may be modified subsequently by judicial and Parole Board decisions on whether to grant leave to apply for Home Detention, or to grant Parole. These decisions are potentially a source of disparity.

Once a sentence has been handed down, in the case of monetary penalties it is enforced by the Courts, while custodial and community-based sentences and orders are enforced by the Department of Corrections. The process of managing sentences is a complex process, with numerous points where some discretion and personal judgement must be exercised. However, decision making within the custodial system, for example in terms of security classification and programme referrals, is much more constrained by explicit and objective criteria such as risk scores based on previous history of offending.

In contrast to earlier stages of the criminal justice process, the ethnicity of the sentenced person can become a central focus of decisions as to their management, on the basis of the need to reduce re-offending by M?ori. Many planned interventions and programmes are ‘culturally targeted’, in the expectation that culturally appropriate services will be more successful than so-called ‘mainstream’ services.

Aspects of this process were called into question in 2002 when a claim was taken to the Waitangi Tribunal 1, alleging that M?ori were disadvantaged in terms of the type and length of sentence by two of the assessment tools used by the Department, namely the Risk of Reconviction and Risk of Re-imprisonment (ROC*ROI), and the Criminogenic Needs Inventory (CNI). The Tribunal concluded that there was insufficient evidence to establish that any prejudice had been or was being caused to M?ori offenders. The Tribunal also accepted that the Department had acted in good faith to reduce re-offending and believed that some aspects of the assessment tools were ground-breaking. Nevertheless, it believed that the 'MaCRNs' tool (M?ori Culture-related Needs Assessment, a component of the CNI), which focused on M?ori offenders' cultural responsiveness, required more testing and independent evaluation.

The impetus for evaluations of the effects of particular tools and programmes on M?ori was given further weight by the 2005 Ministerial Review Unit Review of Culturally Targeted Services. That Review noted that the Department’s services targeted at M?ori and Pacific peoples were based on a clear need to reduce

re-offending by M?ori and Pacific peoples, but that there was insufficient evidence supporting the value and effectiveness of these services.

An initial investigation of the MaCRNs tool (June 2007) concluded that the MaCRNs tool seemed to have a useful motivational effect with some offenders, but was not working effectively in practice, in that assessments did not necessarily lead to further action. The future of the tool is being addressed in the context of a full scale reconsideration of the CNI process. Evaluations of other specialist services for M?ori are also underway, but not complete.

1 Waitangi tribunal claim WAI 1024, The Offender Assessment Policies Report. The judgement was issued in October 2005 http://www.waitangitribunal.govt.nz/reports2005/summary.asp?reportid={A9E5DCD5-98ED-4F5E-B194-CA20C753E74C}