Chief Executive's Overview

Chief Executive's Overview

Photo of Chief Executive Barry Matthews

I am pleased to present my second overview as Chief Executive of the Department of Corrections.

The focus for the 2006/07 year will be on initiatives to address the key priorities agreed with the Minister of Corrections in respect of responsibility-based approaches to encourage positive prisoner behaviour, improving the Department's intensive rehabilitation programmes, increasing treatment of substance abuse problems, focusing on offenders gaining skills and employment, and looking at options for strengthening community sentences for lower-risk offenders.

The 2006/07 year represents the fourth year of the Department's five-year Strategic Business Plan 2003-2008. The overall strategic direction outlined in the plan remains valid, and will continue to guide the Department through to 2008. This Statement of Intent outlines how the Department will continue the progress made in the previous three years towards fulfilling the promise of the plan, while at the same time recognising and responding to changes that have taken place during that time, and to changes in focus agreed with the Minister. During the year, work will also begin on developing a new strategic plan for the five years from 1 July 2008.

This Statement of Intent continues to place the Department's work firmly in the context of justice sector planning to meet the key Government priorities for the next decade. The Department has participated fully in recent sector planning initiatives and will continue to do so in 2006/07. It is only through enhanced collaboration between justice sector agencies that the shared outcomes of 'safer communities' and 'a fairer, more credible and more effective justice system' will be achieved.

Protecting the public and reducing re-offending remains the Department's primary focus. The Department has made considerable gains in recent years towards its outcome of protecting the public. While the Department will continue to consolidate these gains in the year ahead, the prime focus will be on initiatives to ensure consistent approaches to managing and rehabilitating offenders and reducing re-offending.

The rehabilitation and reintegration programmes delivered by the Department are designed to influence and motivate offenders to change their behaviour. Informed decisions on what programme, or mix of programmes, can lead to changed behaviour are predicated on continually reviewing and evaluating existing programmes. The Department has taken a fresh look at these programmes within the context of recent research that shows the intensity of programmes must be related to offenders' risk of re-offending. International evidence and the Department's own evaluations showed that two of the wide range of existing rehabilitation programmes were not as effective as more intense programmes would be.

Accordingly, in March 2006, the decision was taken to replace these two programmes with more intensive programmes over the next year. The Department's underlying approach to reducing re-offending by addressing the causes of each offender's offending remains unchanged and the new programmes will be based on current rehabilitation programmes. The new programmes will include a 300-hour high-intensity programme for high-risk offenders, a 120-150 hour medium-intensity programme for medium-risk offenders, and a shorter option for individual or small groups of offenders, supported by a relapse prevention programme for those who complete the programmes. The Department will also trial the widespread delivery of a Short Motivational Programme for short-serving prisoners. The new programmes will be focused on those offenders who research shows are most likely to benefit from them, therefore having the greatest impact on reducing re-offending.

These programmes will only be part of the fresh look we are taking at the overall management and rehabilitation of offenders to ensure a consistent and cohesive overall approach, with the other priorities agreed with the Minister also forming integral parts of this overall approach.

Work is already underway on a number of these other priorities, including providing better services to support the reintegration into the community of offenders following release from prison or completion of community-based sentences. For example, the Department and the Ministry of Social Development are already working jointly on a strategy to improve the employment prospects of offenders. Both departmental and Work and Income New Zealand reintegrative workers have been established within the prisons to assist prisoners in obtaining employment on their release. We are also continuing to work hand in hand with the New Zealand Prisoners' Aid and Rehabilitation Society (NZPARS) to effect closer alignment on a range of reintegrative services, including a supported accommodation programme being piloted in Auckland with Housing New Zealand Corporation (HNZC).

Managing the increase in the prisoner population, while delivering services to the required standards, will also continue to be a focus in the coming year. Good progress has been made with the prison building programme, with the new Northland Region Corrections Facility now fully operational, and the addition of nearly 500 new beds in existing facilities approved by Cabinet. Construction of three further new corrections facilities is also on track. The Auckland Region Women's Corrections Facility will open this year, followed by the Otago Region Corrections Facility and the Spring Hill Corrections Facility in 2007. In total, more than 2,100 new prison beds will be added to the prison system by November 2007. Prison security will also continue to be enhanced through investment in monitoring of prisoners' telephone calls and an increased crime prevention information capability.

Investment will also continue in our people and our infrastructure, including in technology, to consolidate the gains that have already been made, because improving the capability of our people and their support systems is essential to the achievement of the Department's objectives and outcomes.

The Department is maintaining its commitment to Maori, by continuing the range of initiatives intended to fulfill the promise of our Maori Strategic Plan under its three key themes of building partnerships with Maori, being effective for Maori andbeing responsive to Maori. After a long search for a suitable Maori name for the Department that reflects the core values and goals in our work with offenders, we have adopted the name of Ara Poutama Aotearoa. The formal description of the name is "though the journey has many challenges, with timely support and guidance at crucial times, attaining the goal of an offence-free lifestyle can become a reality". Ara Poutama Aotearoa symbolises our commitment to assist all offenders to become offence-free so they can return to their families/whanau and communities as positive role models.

The Department has also recently issued a new Pacific Strategy, which seeks to extend the range of specific services and programmes that support the management and rehabilitation of Pacific offenders.

Over the last year, the Department has participated fully in the Ministry of Health-led government preparations for a possible influenza pandemic, as part of the Law and Order Group led by the New Zealand Police. Departmental plans are well advanced to cope with an influenza outbreak, and pandemic planning will continue to be a high priority over the coming months.

During the year ahead, there will be many significant challenges for the organisation and its people. I look forward to working with our people to face these challenges and I am confident that the Department will successfully meet these to create a safer environment for the people of New Zealand.


Barry Matthews
Chief Executive