New Zealand Correctional Programming

The history of correctional programming in New Zealand has largely followed the path prescribed by North American and British models and hence has been subject to the full impact of the ‘nothing works/what works’ doctrines (see for example McLaren, 1991, 1992). The New Zealand Department of Corrections has developed a number of programmes that aim to reduce recidivism for targeted offender groups. Targeted offender groups have typically been those people imprisoned for offences against other people (e.g., sexual and violent offenders). Targeting has also been extended to include offenders who, by virtue of their repeat offending, occupy considerable (and expensive) space in the prison system (e.g., high risk offenders such as driving while disqualified offenders).

This section reviews a number of the rehabilitative programmes offered by the New Zealand Department of Corrections that specifically aim to reduce recidivism. Excluded are approaches that do not have the explicit goal of reducing recidivism, for example, educational and vocational programmes such as the National Certificate in Employment Skills. Many of the programmes that are reviewed have been documented in internal departmental publications, however few have been published externally (and hence available to both national and international practitioners). This partially reflects the relatively small scale of the New Zealand initiatives (in terms of potential and actual offender numbers), but also the operational focus of the Department of Corrections. However in the current social and political environment of having to carefully justify all expenditure, and ensure that practice is based on robust evidence-based models, it appears more important than ever that rehabilitative programmes are scientifically evaluated and through external publication, are subject to the necessary peer review. This sentiment was echoed by a previous Minister for the Department of Corrections, the Hon. Matt Robson, in the foreword to the 2001 Department of Corrections report “About Time”, when he stated “We must use sound, research-based, rehabilitation programmes for offenders so they do not re-offend.” (Department of Corrections, 2001, p. v). For this reason, national and international peer review and critique is seen as essential to the continued development and refinement of New Zealand correctional practices.

The effectiveness of the following rehabilitative interventions are reviewed in the current article