Briefing to the Incoming Minister 2023

Message from the Chief Executive

Congratulations on your appointment as Minister of Corrections. We are ready to discuss your key priorities and how we can support you during your time as our Minister.

The Department of Corrections – Ara Poutama Aotearoa (Corrections) is one of New Zealand’s largest core government agencies. We employ nearly 10,000 staff, with the overwhelming majority working on the frontline as corrections officers, probation officers, case managers, nurses, instructors, programme facilitators, psychologists, community work supervisors, and in many other roles. Together they manage around 36,000 people on sentences and orders in prison and the community on any given day.

Managing people securely in prison and monitoring people in the community is just one aspect of our work. Alongside our core rehabilitation programmes, we provide employment, education and training opportunities, healthcare, mental health and addiction services, and housing support.

While it is ultimately the responsibility of those we manage to make positive changes in their lives, helping people address the causes of their offending and gain practical skills means we’re more likely to break the cycle of offending and make our communities safer.

Our work isn’t without its challenges. Many of the prisoners our staff work with can behave unpredictably and act without warning. Over 80% of the prison population have convictions for violence in their offending histories and around 37% have a gang affiliation, which is a known predictor of violence. Keeping our staff safe is a top priority, and we will continue to invest in giving them the training, tools, and support they need to do their jobs well and return home safe after their shifts.

Many people in our management face significant mental health and addiction issues as well as barriers when it comes to education, employment, and housing. We also continue to see an overrepresentation of Māori in the prison population, alongside an increasing number of people on remand. Addressing these longstanding issues isn’t something we can do alone, and we remain committed to working with other justice, health, and social sector agencies to improve outcomes in these areas.

Like many organisations, we have faced pressures recruiting and retaining staff. We ramped up our efforts to recruit more frontline staff and have seen a strong increase in the number of job applications for corrections officers as a result, with more than 11,810 applications received since 1 October 2022. We have also recruited 826 people into corrections officer roles, with many more in the recruitment pipeline.

We have set strong foundations as an organisation and are fortunate to have thousands of dedicated frontline staff who come to work each day to make New Zealand a safer place. I look forward to what more we can achieve.

Once again, congratulations and we look forward to working with you.

Jeremy Lightfoot

Chief Executive

Read the Briefing to the Incoming Minister December 2023 PDF, 2.2 MB in full.