Reducing re-offending

The majority of people who offend have complex and deep-seated health and social problems. The knock-on effects of their offending can span generations; it is a tragic fact that there are 23,000 children with a mother or father in prison, and children with a parent in prison are seven times more likely to end up in prison. If we can break that cycle, then we give this next generation a chance to lead a life free from violence, neglect and crime.

1. Education, training and employment

After extensive security testing, online education was introduced to 30 young offenders at Christchurch Prison’s Youth Offender Unit. The controlled access to five external websites enables them to work in a safe, supportive environment on skills such as numeracy and literacy, to ultimately gain an NCEA accreditation. This will be rolled out across the prison estate.

Adult learning is a corner-stone of creating lasting change. We will improve access to all levels of education and reinforce its importance through the Future State Service Model. This model includes preparing education and training assessments for all prisoners that form the basis for a learning pathway they will follow throughout their sentence.

We know that individuals are less likely to continue to commit offences if they have a job, so we must concentrate on giving people the skills they need to get and keep a job. This means further developing our Working Prisons, and expanding on the good work of our offender employment teams in increasing offenders’ participation in education, training and employment.

The regions will lead our efforts to improve our employment services, working with prisoners and key partners such as work brokers to ease the transition from training to employment. Across the country, we will encourage more employers and more people in industry to provide real jobs for offenders serving community sentences or about to leave prison.

2. Rehabilitation

Young offenders under 25 are at a crossroads – what we do can determine whether they choose a path that leads to a lifetime of crime, or a path that leads towards a better life.

Of course, having the right training or experience to get a job isn’t enough to stop people offending. The factors that see people offending in the first place must also be dealt with. Over the next 12 months we will ensure that all offenders who need drug or  alcohol treatment have access to it.

Domestic violence leaves a trail of victims, yet it often goes unreported and unacknowledged. Through better, more targeted anti-violence programmes we will make it clear that domestic violence is not okay and provide people with the coping skills they need to stop lashing out.

Probation officers manage many different types of offenders, ranging from those serving short, community work sentences to released prisoners who may still pose a risk to the public. We will continue to develop and roll-out direct intervention rehabilitation services delivered by probation staff.

Anyone who has experienced the impressive sight of young men from the Youth and Maori Focus Units performing the haka will understand the awesome power of reconnecting with one’s culture. The new therapeutic model in our Maori Focus Units will be implemented nationwide to lift the achievement level of these units to an elite standard.

Intervening early by addressing drug and alcohol issues, providing education and training, as well as employment opportunties, makes a huge difference with young offenders. We will implement our Youth Action Plan, which targets how we work within Corrections, who we partner with outside Corrections and what key actions must be taken to stop young offenders becoming career criminals.

3. Responsive Community Services

We need community-based services that are open for business more than the nine-to-five work day. We will create more responsive community services, where services follow the offender rather than the other way around. We’re already operating late-night and weekend reporting, programmes and psychological interventions at more flexible times. This allows offenders to meet their sentence plan targets without jeopardising training, employment or family responsibilities.

More flexible service delivery means more flexible staffing arrangements and we will develop this as best practice. We will review
our probation staff allocation models to ensure we can meet peak demand for services, and deliver to the highest standard of practice.

We will also work with partner agencies and providers to address the unmet housing needs of high risk and high need offenders. Together, we will work to provide more supported accommodation to ensure that offenders can reside in appropriate and safe homes.

4. Supporting families and reintegration

For those leaving prison, getting somewhere to live, finding a job and reconnecting with family and community can be extremely difficult, and the more difficult it is for people to reintegrate, the more likely it is they will re-offend. This is why having support in the community is so important.

Before, during and after sentencing, we will provide more guidance for families of offenders so they can maintain or restore their family bond. We know that maintaining a link with a parent in prison is particularly important for children. We must make it easier for prisoners to spend time with their children in a safe and child-friendly environment. This not only supports the prisoner’s rehabilitation, but contributes to the child’s welfare as well. We will engage with whanau and communities to help them prepare for and reintegrate prisoners near the end of their sentence.

Corrections has been allocated $10 million from the Justice Sector Fund to establish Out of Gate, a navigation service to help short-serving and remand prisoners readjust to life beyond the prison walls. We will contract providers to assess people’s reintegrative needs and ‘navigate’ offenders to a range of existing community services. The focus will be on employment, accommodation,education and training, living skills, health and wellbeing, whanau and community links. Case managers and probation officers will have a key role in referring and supporting offenders to take up Out of Gate services.