The Government continues to invest to keep the New Zealand public safe and secure. It is working hard to address crime with comprehensive policies that reduce the incidence of crime while also focusing on ways to lower re-offending rates through targeted rehabilitation and reintegration programmes.
The Government has outlined an ambitious vision for New Zealand over the next ten years. Central to its goal will be ensuring families - both young and old - have the support and choices they need to fulfil their full potential. The Department of Corrections has a vital role to play by contributing to achieving safer communities.
Over the past seven years, the corrections system has been thoroughly modernised. The result is a corrections system that now provides significantly better protection for the public - the primary duty of the criminal justice system. We must continue to do all we can to keep the public safe from serious, violent and dangerous offenders. This means using prison better, reserving it for more serious offenders and keeping the most dangerous in prison for longer.
In June I will be opening the 286-bed Auckland Women's Regional Corrections Facility. This is the second of four new prisons being built, with Spring Hill and Otago regional prisons on track to be opened next year. In 2007, over 2,100 new beds will have come into service since 2004.
As well as needing offenders to be punished in order to serve justice, a healthy and safe society needs them to be given every opportunity to acknowledge their failures and mistakes and become constructive members of our communities. With this in mind the Government is committed to looking at the full range of options and responses to specifically address the growing prison population and reduce re-offending. This has obvious practical implications - a significant proportion of crime is committed by people who have already been through the prison system. Reducing re-offending will cut crime and make us all safer.
The Statement of Intent highlights a number of priorities I have asked the Department to focus on in the coming year, to ensure consistent approaches to managing and rehabilitating offenders. These are:
- Responsibility-based approaches that provide prisoners with sanctions and incentives to encourage positive behaviour.
- Improving the Department's rehabilitation programmes with the new focus on more intensive and better-targeted programmes.
- Providing treatment for a larger number of offenders who have substance abuse problems.
- Focusing on offenders gaining skills and employment, and increasing the opportunities available for this in prisons. Prisoners should be as productive as possible during their sentence by taking part in meaningful work initiatives and learning skills that will prepare them for life in the community.
- Options for strengthening community sentences for lower-risk offenders.
The Department has identified specific initiatives to address these priorities and will work with other government departments, Maori groups and community agencies. It has long been recognised that the corrections system can only be part of the solution to criminal offending, and the Department can be considerably more effective when joined up with other agencies.
In terms of my responsibility under section 39 of the Public Finance Act 1989 to present and publish information on the Department's future operating intentions, I certify that the information in this Statement of Intent is consistent with the policies and performance expectations of the Government.
Hon Damien O'Connor
Minister of Corrections