Foreword from the Minister of Corrections
The Department of Corrections is an important part of the justice sector. It is responsible for ensuring that the sentences and orders of the courts are complied with and for the management of offenders in the community and the prison system. It also has responsibility for reducing re-offending and within the corrections system supporting those who are victims of crime.
The key priority of the Department must be the safety of the community. In that respect, the security of our prison system is essential. I am pleased that changes in the physical structure and management of prisons have seen escapes fall to one sixth of their level a decade ago. Working to prevent re-offending and to achieve rehabilitation of offenders is also first and foremost about protecting the community against future victimisation, as well as reducing the expense and wastage of human life which imprisonment represents.
The sharp reduction in use of drugs in prison, due to tougher measures against introducing contraband and the expansion of drug and alcohol units, also targets a major factor in offending – abuse of and addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Creating employment and learning opportunities to give prisoners the skills and work habits they need to find employment on their release and become contributing members of the community is also a key goal. The number of prisoners in work has expanded from 40 to 47% over the last two years with a target of 60% by 2010. Release to Work programmes have also been boosted, allowing prisoners to settle into employment before their release and ensuring smoother reintegration back into society.
Prevention is always better than cure and early intervention in the lives of potential offenders is critical to lowering crime and imprisonment rates. Ensuring effective interventions for Māori to lower offending and imprisonment rates and delivering good programmes within the corrections system are both important to address the situation where Māori make up 50% of the prison population. To succeed overall we must succeed for Māori offenders.
Legislative change has expanded the range and intensity of community-based interventions available to the judiciary.
Keeping less serious offenders out of prison lessens the risk of re-offending and negative peer influence within prisons. The Department faces the challenge of managing more offenders in the community, with a commensurate increase in resources to enable it to do this job effectively.
Legislative change, including measures currently before Parliament, extend the ability of the Department of Corrections to prevent contraband entering prisons and hold all offenders to account when they do not comply with behavioural standards set for them.
The law relating to offenders on parole has also been tightened to ensure enforcement action is taken when conditions of sentence or parole are not complied with.
The Department of Corrections has the responsibility for dealing with those who are often the most difficult and volatile people in our community. I believe that overall it does its job well. It is committed to constantly improving its performance to ensure the best outcomes for society and to make a difference where it can for those individuals for which it is responsible.
Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Corrections