Current Environmental Scan

ver the next five years, the key environmental factors expected to affect the Department will be:

  • continued growth in the offender population, especially amongst young, Mâori and Pacific population groups
  • continued growth in the rate of violent crime, especially amongst young offenders
  • crime and justice issues remaining a key concern for the public
  • pressure on the justice sector to work together to reduce offending
  • ongoing changes to community-based sentences and the management of community-based offenders
  • a tighter fiscal environment within the public sector
  • a tighter labour market, where it is difficult to recruit and retain skilled staff.

Continued growth in the offender population

The number of offenders apprehended, remanded and sentenced has increased substantially in recent years resulting in increases in the number of offenders the Department manages – both those offenders serving community-based sentences and orders, and remand and sentenced prisoners. This increase is forecast to continue into the future at a rate of growth well above that of the general population. This has placed, and will continue to place, pressure on the Department’s operations, facilities and the staff who manage offenders.

The Department will have to effectively respond to the growth of the offender population. The Department will have to ensure that in times when it is stretched, it retains its focus on achieving its outcomes. It will also need to work closely with others to tackle offending to stem the growth in the offender population.

Maori are disproportionately represented in the offender population, making up 50% of the prison population, yet only 15% of the general population  ,as at 23 March 2008.

Programmes and services are in place to specifically target Mâori offenders’ rehabilitative and reintegrative needs, including Tikanga Mâori-based courses and Mâori Therapeutic Programmes. Relationships are also maintained with Mâori communities in order to deliver services that work best for Mâori offenders. A prime focus of the Department’s current evaluation programme is the effectiveness of these culturally-based programmes and services as part of a larger programme of evaluations for Maori and Pacific, all of which are scheduled to be completed by 2010.

Continued growth in the rate of violent crime

While recorded crime generally has been tracking downwards over the past ten years, the trend in violent crime has been heading in the opposite direction, with a 31% increase in total apprehensions of offenders for violent crimes in the same period. Current indications are that this trend will continue. Violent offenders make up a significant proportion of the prison population, and in prison tend to be more difficult to manage.

Crime and justice issues remain a key concern for the Public

It is the nature of the work the Department of Corrections does that incidents will always attract public attention. Public scrutiny has always been a strong motivator for Department to get the basics right. However, care needs to be taken that it does not stifle innovation.

The focus on justice sector issues has resulted in changes to sentencing and policing policies. The Department must stay abreast of the impacts that changes in policies across the justice sector have on its operations, both in terms of the volumes of offenders it manages and the way it manages offenders.

Pressure on the justice sector to work together to reduce offending

The sharing of outcomes across the justice sector, and the realisation that the Department needs to work with others to achieve its outcomes, presents an opportunity to increase collaboration with other agencies and groups.

The Department is widening its focus from only those activities which the Department directly controls, to influencing others to deliver activities that positively contribute towards its outcomes. There is a strong emphasis on collaboration across the public sector which the Department can harness over the next five years to pursue innovative and more collaborative ways of achieving its outcomes.

Ongoing changes to community-based sentences and the management of community-based offenders

Ongoing changes have been made to the range of community-based sentences and orders available to the judiciary, and to improving the management of community-based offenders – particularly high-risk offenders. This has seen an increased number of offenders managed across a wider range of sentences.

The impact of these changes on the Department has been significant. The Department has expanded its staff to manage the higher number of community-based offenders. It has provided training to ensure that staff understand and can effectively manage the new community-based sentences and orders, and that new staff can quickly learn the skills they require to be effective.

A tighter fiscal environment within the public sector

With a growing offender population and a tighter fiscal environment, ensuring the Department’s services provide good value for money becomes particularly important. A challenge over the next five years will be adapting to changing pressures by targeting resources to priority areas.

Continued tight labour market conditions

The Department has hired significant numbers of staff to manage the growth in offenders and the expansion of sentences. However, it takes time for new staff to gain the necessary experience to perform at peak levels. The labour market is expected to remain tight in the future, meaning that the Department’s investment in people will be critical to recruiting and retaining the people it needs. The Department also wants to align what people do, and the way they work, to its priorities. This will require the Department to be clear about the organisational culture it wants to build and the values underpinning that, and to hold itself to account for living that culture.