Chief Executive's Overview
I am pleased to present this Annual Report, my first as Chief Executive. In assuming my role I must acknowledge the legacy of the previous Chief Executive, Mark Byers, in establishing the Department and setting its strategic direction. During his nine-year tenure as Chief Executive, he guided the Department through a period of extensive change, including the introduction of a new approach to offender management, major expansion of facilities and development of infrastructure, and significant legislative change.
Since my arrival in the Department, I have taken the opportunity to talk to many staff, and visit all prisons, service centres and offices throughout the country. The Department of Corrections is a sound organisation, with strong leadership apparent at all levels, effective strategic thinking and good management skills. These attributes were well tested during the year in managing the pressures of an increasing prison population. The Department's performance demonstrates it was well positioned, within the Justice Sector, in making significant contributions towards fulfilling the Government's outcomes, although as always there is room for improvement.
An Output Pricing Review in 2003 was the basis upon which the Government provided the Department with increased capital and operating funding to progressively restore and maintain capability, and enable additional investment in rebuilding core capacity. This occurred alongside a significant programme to construct additional prison facilities to meet the increasing prison population, while considerable effort has also been expended in extending existing prison facilities. The new Northland Region Corrections Facility was opened in March 2005, and three additional corrections facilities will be commissioned in the course of the next two years. The investment in these areas will continue to build the capacity needed to sustain and extend the Department's performance.
The Corrections Act 2004 and Corrections Regulations 2005 came into force on 1 June 2005, replacing the Penal Institutions Act 1954 and the Penal Institutions Regulations 2000. This completed the package of criminal justice reform in New Zealand that started with the Sentencing Act, Parole Act and Victims' Rights Act. The new Corrections Act and Regulations provide a modern framework for the management of corrections and a set of clear principles to guide and inform the development of corrections activity over the coming years. The new Act also gives priority to public safety and ensures that victims' interests are considered. Overall, the legislation will offer a more open and accountable system including the capability of being more responsive in supporting and maintaining our efforts in addressing the needs of Maori and Pacific offenders and their communities.
The prison population has continued to increase faster than that projected by Ministry of Justice forecasts. Throughout the year prisoner numbers have at times exceeded the number of beds available in the prison system. The Department responded to the pressures of effectively managing this situation by ensuring our prisons continued to run smoothly. During the year the prison population growth tested the Department's contingency capacity, which included the utilisation of operational buffers and disaster-recovery capacities. In collectively managing this situation within the justice sector environment, I am appreciative of the assistance offered by the Police and Ministry of Justice, and I am also most appreciative of the dedication and professionalism displayed by all prison staff.
During the course of the year a number of the Department's plans, designed to ease prisoner pressures, were either realised or under development for impending implementation. In this respect, the Department opened the Northland Region Corrections Facility in March 2005 and will continue work in 2005/06 on extending the capacity of some existing prison facilities, by an additional 493 beds. The commissioning of the Auckland Region Women's Correction Facility will occur in 2006, while the Spring Hill and Otago Region Corrections Facilities are scheduled for completion in 2007.
Considerable work was also undertaken during the year to effect the smooth transfer of full responsibility for the management of the Auckland Central Remand Prison to the Department, which was completed on 12 July 2005. The Department will continue working with other justice-sector agencies in examining options for both containing and accommodating growth in the prison population, while ensuring that the community's safety is not compromised.
Protecting the public and reducing re-offending remains the Department's primary focus. Our efforts to reduce re-offending, in using rehabilitation and reintegration programmes to influence offenders in order to change behaviour, are appropriate.
The difficulty resides in what programme, or mix of programmes, can best lead to changed behaviour. Informed decisions about this are predicated on the practice of continually reviewing and evaluating existing programmes, as quickly as possible, to determine the right mix of programmes for delivery at the most opportune time during the course of a prisoner's sentence. New roles have been developed within the Department to achieve this aim.
The measurement of success in this field is based upon internal evaluations and benched-marked against comparable jurisdictions. The evolution of this long-term strategy needs constant nurturing to ensure it is flexible and responsive enough to meet the requirements of helping offenders return to their communities and participate positively in society. The reintegrative initiatives undertaken by the Department aim to assist offenders to remain offence-free and include: basic living skills, parenting and budgeting advice, supported accommodation programmes, and roles performed by reintegration co-ordinators and whanau liaison workers. Self-care units also help offenders learn independent living skills as they approach the end of their time in prison.
The Department has continued to develop its technological capabilities. Since the inception of home detention, advances in electronic tagging have been introduced and monitoring procedures strengthened. These initiatives have laid the groundwork for investigations into the practicalities of using voice verification and global positioning systems. In response to the miniaturisation of modern communications devices, the Department has recently commissioned a project to assess appropriate options for the management of unauthorised use of mobile telephones in prisons and will consider technological solutions utilised overseas. This work will be complemented by investment in monitoring prisoners' telephone calls and increased crime prevention information capability.
The implementation of Extended Supervision Orders for serious child-sex offenders has enabled the Department to monitor a number of offenders who pose a high risk of re-offending. The Department has worked with local service groups and communities as part of its efforts to aid the reintegration of sex offenders released from prison. This is a difficult and contentious issue that has attracted significant interest from the public and the news media. This interest also extended to prison population growth and prisoner complaints. There is considerable work ahead of us in improving the Department's image and ensuring staff and stakeholders are consistently informed about all aspects of the Department's operations.
The past year has been difficult and demanding and I want to acknowledge the commitment of all staff, whose dedication and professionalism allowed us to successfully meet the challenges presented. I look forward to the forthcoming year, which I am sure will be as interesting and challenging as my first. I am confident the Department can build on the foundations already in place to create a safer environment for the people of New Zealand.