Managing in a changeable environment

The last two years have seen major economic change on a global scale. The Department will face this new landscape and respond to the Government’s challenge to the public sector by becoming increasingly results-focused. Our staff will engage with local providers to effect local change. We will do more with less, and make the most of technological improvements. Together, we will achieve our goal of reducing re-offending.

Greatly improved quality of Corrections’ interventions and a higher degree of availability across the offender population has already translated into reduced rates of re-offending. The latest 10 year forecast (to 2021) for both prisoner and community sentenced offender populations indicates a slow downward trajectory. This is very welcome after a long period of persistent growth. Ultimately, continuing to reduce re-offending is the most effective way to lower our costs.

The Department’s greatest challenge over the course of the next three years will be in driving re-offending rates down even further. Positive changes in the wider social sector are likely to assist, including a greater focus on family violence and child abuse. Further improving educational services will progress offenders’ chances of gaining successful employment and reduce inflows to the criminal justice system. However, a ‘business as usual’ approach and fewer offenders entering the criminal justice system will not deliver the scale of change needed to achieve our re-offending goal.

The demographic make-up of the offender population managed by the Department will continue to evolve. A greater ethnic mix of offenders is already being seen, reflecting the changing face of New Zealand society as a whole. Unfortunately, over-representation of Maori offenders is not expected to alter significantly in the short term. Therefore, to achieve our goals, Corrections must be more successful with Maori offenders. The over-representation of young Pasifika prisoners is also becoming apparent and will continue to be a focus for intervention.

The Department also faces increasing numbers of older prisoners, and prisoners with mental health needs, who present particular management challenges. Violent offenders continue to grow as a proportion of the offender population. Likewise, the female offender population is expected to become a greater proportion of the total, with the number of females convicted for serious violent offending a particular concern. Prisoners who are gang members or associates remain a serious problem, making this an important focus for intervention.

New Zealand remains vulnerable to major economic shocks and is still living with the economic and emotional burdens left in the wake of the Canterbury earthquakes. The economic constraints provide an opportunity for innovative thinking and for new local solutions to be sought and implemented. We will continue to do our best to address the added pressures placed on staff and offenders, both in Christchurch and throughout the country. The tight job market will make it more difficult for the Department to reach its goals of finding jobs for released prisoners. Securing a job is one of the most important steps to the successful reintegration of released prisoners, and despite the challenges the Department will continue to make this a priority.

New technological advances will be carefully considered as they emerge. Where new technology can improve the services we deliver, provide cost savings and increase efficiency, it will be trialed and if successful, adopted. Modernising and streamlining service delivery will allow our frontline staff to spend more time working with local providers and offenders to achieve our goal of reducing re-offending.