Chief Executives Foreword
It gives me great pleasure to present this year's Annual Report. The year has been a positive one for the Department. New key initiatives have been delivered; others previously started have been bedded in, while planning is well underway in other areas in support of the Department's outcomes of 'protecting the public' and 'reducing reoffending' - the most significant being the suite of Effective Interventions initiatives.
Much of the work undertaken by the Department is in difficult, challenging and complex circumstances; it is not always understood by the public, who are not necessarily aware of the legal and other constraints under which we must operate, nor fully appreciate what it is like to work with offenders. This year proved no exception and I think it would be fair to say these complexities have been compounded by an unprecedented level of public and political scrutiny over the past 12 months.
Fortunately, two independent reviews have assisted in laying to rest a number of the fallacies in the public arena. The Ombudsmen's own motion review found no general ill-treatment of prisoners or inappropriate conduct of staff. To quote from the report; "we reiterate that we found neither systemic ill-treatment of prisoners nor abuses of power…., nor any culture within prison staff for abuse of prisoners". I also agree with the Ombudsmen that there is still much to be done in the provision of rehabilitation programmes and constructive activities for prisoners. This was a key focus for the year, which I will comment on a little later.
In May 2006, the Prime Minister opened the second of the Department's four new regional facilities - Auckland Region Women's Corrections Facility. It was opened on time and within budget. An excellent result and to the credit of all involved.
The August 2006 State Services Commission review of the cost escalation at the third and fourth of the Department's new facilities - Spring Hill Corrections Facility and Otago Region Corrections Facility - while noting areas the Department could have managed better, also acknowledges the good work done in developing these facilities to very tight timelines in a heated construction market.
The Department also welcomed the acknowledgement in the report that it has made significant improvements in the governance arrangements for the Regional Prisons Development Project and is committed to further improvements in processes throughout the remaining life of the project.
Against this backdrop, it has been a year of positioning the Department to meet the future expectations and requirements of the community in which it has a vital and fundamental role to play. While we have already come a long way, the pace of change has accelerated over the year with more remaining to be done if the Department is to be well-equipped looking forward.
Recent years has seen the Department experience unprecedented growth in the demand for its services. The Department's strategy for responding to these pressures, via integrated offender management and continuing focus on improving service delivery and effectiveness, has led to increasing emphasis on the integration of functions. Experience and overseas research has demonstrated that the suite of programmes, services, and other interventions designed to reduce re-offending are more likely to be effective where there is both integrated service delivery internally and strong external partnerships with communities and community volunteer groups.
The year under review saw the next steps taken in the ongoing process of integration. First was the establishment of the General Manager Integration role. This role assumed responsibility for co-ordinating departmental effort around the new reintegrative framework, the Corrections Inmate Employment (CIE) strategic plan, supported accommodation trials, Work and Income support to increase work opportunities for prisoners on release, amongst other opportunities.
Subsequently, I have announced a review of the Department's Head Office. I have done this to ensure that the Department has the best Head Office structure in place to both lead and support improved integration of Department functions and service delivery. The results of this review, including its recommendations, will become available for consideration and discussion in the New Year.
As I have already mentioned, a major focus has been around enhancing and expanding existing rehabilitation and reintegration initiatives.
Recent evaluations showed that two programmes designed to address behaviour which had contributed to offending were not producing the desired change in offender behaviour. As a consequence, a significant redesign of criminogenic programmes commenced with a focus on developing more intensive programmes for higher risk offenders.
The year has seen the Department increase its collaboration with the Ministry of Social Development. The result has been the setting up of Work and Income Reintegration case workers in each prison, with departmental reintegration worker positions also established during the year following a pilot programme. Activities to be undertaken by these joint Prisoner Reintegration teams include providing much needed employment case management and work broker services to prisoners prior to release, with the aim of increasing the likelihood of prisoners finding suitable employment after release. They will also help address common difficulties such as accessing accommodation, finding employment, managing relationships and managing finances.
The launch of the Prisoner Employment Strategy 2006???2009 in May 2006 created a framework and programme of work that will help to address the significant skills deficits and obstacles prisoners face in obtaining post-release employment, and ultimately contribute to making our communities safer.
What has been abundantly clear during the year is that the public also expect the Department to ensure that the community remains protected from those in our custody, both in prison and under our responsibility in the community. Ongoing public support for the Department's rehabilitative and reintegrative measures is dependent on people feeling safe.
The Department has moved to provide a greater level of surety in this area. We have made great strides in improving the security of our prisons. Escapes, suicides and other serious incidents continue a downward trend despite record prisoner numbers, and compare favourably with overseas countries.
Home detention continues to be an effective sentence in terms of very low rates of re-offending while on home detention. A total of 99 percent of offenders on home detention during the year did not abscond while serving their sentence. This includes offenders who serve the majority of their sentence on home detention, and those that serve a minimum of two years in prison and complete their sentence under electronic surveillance at home prior to being released on parole.
Enforcement of the conditions of sentences and orders managed in the community is a significant part of the work of Probation Officers and Senior Community Work Supervisors. Both for the integrity of sentence management and for the safety of the community it is important that robust procedures are in place and are being followed. This is not an easy part of the job but I am aware that our managers and staff take this part of their role very seriously and again this year they have kept on top of enforcement activity. This is something that will continue to be a focus as we move to implement changes in community-based sentences and orders.
The year also saw the strengthening of the Department's crime prevention and security capacity following the allocation of more funding for these activities in the 2005/06 Budget. The Department is taking measures to enhance its telephone monitoring capacity and put more staff into prisons and regional offices to collect and analyse information obtained through that monitoring.
We have seen the number of drug detection dogs double since 2004, and recently I was able to praise efforts in lowering positive results in random drug tests, while pointing out how the amount of contraband confiscated from visitors has doubled.
No doubt the forthcoming year will bring its own challenges and opportunities. Much remains to be done and it is not possible to simply stand still. However pleasing the results or robust the system, policies and procedures, there is always room for improvement. If the gains made this year are any indication then the future is one which can be faced with confidence.
I could not finish without acknowledging the work of the Department's staff as they have gone about their work with commitment and professionalism. One of the most rewarding moments during the year was to present recipients with their inaugural Chief Executive PRIDE awards. These awards, which I had the pleasure of instigating during my first year as Chief Executive, encourage individual and group achievement of the Department's values of Professionalism, Responsiveness, Integrity, Diversity, Effectiveness and Efficiency and provide an opportunity to celebrate and recognise people at an organisational level.
I am constantly impressed as I meet staff in all areas of the Department with their ongoing passion to make a positive difference to the people we manage whether on community sentences or in prisons. I thank them for their dedicated public service.