Our Operating Environment
Corrections manages many of New Zealand’s most difficult and dangerous people. We are at the end of the criminal justice ‘pipeline’. The flow of people into and out of our prisons is dependent on a number of external factors, including judicial trends, offending rates, justice policy and policing practice. We must ensure we have the capacity to safely and humanely accommodate everyone that enters our care. In addition, several years of rapid growth in the prison population has placed pressure on Corrections’ capacity to accommodate and rehabilitate prisoners.
A growing prison population and the need for capacity
Over the past two years, the prison population grew by 20 percent and New Zealand’s rate of imprisonment grew to more than 220 prisoners per 100,000 people. This level of growth poses operational challenges to almost every aspect of Corrections’ work. We now need to accommodate, feed, transport, educate, rehabilitate, transition and reintegrate, and provide health services to more prisoners than ever before.
The Ministry of Justice provides the justice sector projection of the prison population based on the current justice sector settings, including Police numbers, legislative changes and judicial trends. In recent years, the rate of growth has significantly exceeded forecasts, especially growth of the remand population, limiting Corrections’ ability to plan in advance for the rapid growth in the prison population.
We have had to adapt quickly. We continue to urgently bring prison beds into service through the intensification of existing accommodation, small-scale builds and recommissioning end-of-life facilities. A more intensely populated prison system also requires investment in facilities and services such as prison amenities and yards, industry-related activities, and rehabilitation programmes. Additionally, large numbers of frontline staff are required to maintain safe staff-to-prisoner ratios.
Current trends indicate that Corrections will continue to experience heavy demand for prison places in the short to medium term. Though we have already added 775* beds since 2016, our ability to continue this work is dependent on investment and capacity restraints at our existing prison sites. Budget 2018 included $198.4 million to accommodate an additional 600 prisoner places in rapid-build modular units in prisons by the end of 2019.
Outside of increasing capacity in our prisons, we have initiated the High Impact Innovation Programme which is focused on moving people through the criminal justice pipeline faster. This is expected to reduce growth in demand for remand prison beds, by reducing the average length of time defendants are held in prison on remand. To date, we have successfully demonstrated that improving operational efficiency in the justice sector is an effective way of reducing demand for beds.
It should be noted, however, that this programme alone is unlikely to resolve the capacity-related challenges currently faced by Corrections.
*as at 11 May 2018
Improving outcomes for Māori
Māori make up less than 16 percent of the general population of New Zealand, yet over 50 percent of all prisoners self-identify their primary ethnicity as Māori. This figure is even higher for female and youth prisoners. Māori are over-represented in all stages of the criminal justice system.
Drivers of this over-representation are multi-layered and complex, and include broader socio-economic and societal factors. However, given that Māori are the majority of people in the corrections system, we recognise that succeeding for Māori is an urgent priority and an essential component of how we will achieve the strategic intentions outlined in this document.
Research indicates that Māori offenders have lower rates of literacy and numeracy than the general offender population and higher rates of gang membership. Further, while our results show that Māori participation in many of our programmes is as good as – if not better than – that of non-Māori offenders, our standard evaluation methodologies indicate that gains from these programmes are not retained as strongly by Māori. We have qualitative information showing good gains where rehabilitation programmes are designed, developed and delivered in a kaupapa Māori environment.
The complex factors contributing to Māori offending and re-offending mean that Corrections must partner with others to be successful for Māori, including our justice sector partners and Māori communities.
We must work in partnership with others to drive the wide range of interventions required to address Māori offending. We are already working with our justice sector partners to address drivers of crime, particularly re-offending, by ensuring Māori offenders have access to meaningful interventions in prison and the support they need upon their return to the community. Building stronger partnerships with iwi is a key strategic priority for the next period, and we are strengthening our capability in this area.
We have some programmes that target Māori specifically, such as Te Tirohanga, a tikanga-based programme delivered in five whare in prisons across the country. Mauri Tū Pae, the core component of Te Tirohanga is our medium intensity kaupapa Māori programme for male offenders. We are also establishing Te Mana Wahine programmes for women.
Additionally, certain crimes (such as driving or family violence offences) feature heavily in repeat offending among Māori. By addressing the drivers of these specific crimes, targeting Corrections’ interventions, expanding kaupapa Māori programmes, strengthening our own organisational cultural capability, and partnering with iwi, we should see improved outcomes, including a reduction in the re-offending rate among Māori.
Providing mental health support to offenders
The high prevalence of mental illness among prisoners means that Corrections is managing more people with mental illness than any other organisation in New Zealand. While one in five New Zealanders experience mental illness in their
lifetime, nine in ten people in our prisons have a lifetime diagnosis of mental health or substance abuse disorders. Caring for these people in a custodial environment is a constantly challenging aspect of our work.
Suicide and self-harm is a significant issue among prisoners. Last year, we placed more than 3,000 prisoners in At-Risk Units across the country, for the purpose of monitoring their wellbeing and preventing them from doing themselves physical harm. To improve support for these offenders, we are transforming our At-Risk Units into Intervention and Support Units, placing a greater emphasis on the provision of specialist mental health services.
Corrections is changing how it designs and operates its facilities by prioritising the mental health and rehabilitation needs of prisoners. For example, the new maximum security facility at Auckland Prison is about to come into service, and
has been designed with purpose-built therapeutic environments for treatment, and sensory spaces that provide prisoners with more access to natural light, colour and plants.
We also have a number of interventions available to support offenders in the treatment of mental health issues. These range from primary health services and short-term packages of care, to forensic services for people presenting with the most serious mental health issues. We also provide specific interventions,
ranging in intensity from brief to intensive, targeted at prisoners with issues related to alcohol and other drugs. Our annual assessment of these interventions (the Rehabilitation Quotient), which is published in our Annual Report, indicates they are effective in reducing re-offending.
Due to the ongoing prison population growth, Corrections is facing increased demand for mental health services and programmes in prisons which, in turn, is placing significant pressure on our capacity to deliver the quantity and quality of interventions required. Without expanding the provision of these services, we risk undermining the significant progress we have made in this area in recent years.
We are addressing this pressure. By improving and expanding the interventions we have available we are able to reach more offenders than ever before. Further, by targeting our most vulnerable prisoners, and commencing services at the new maximum security facility at Auckland Prison, we should see improved mental health outcomes among our most vulnerable offenders. By improving mental health, we will enable more prisoners to engage in rehabilitation, education and industry opportunities, and should ultimately see a reduction in re-offending.
Housing offenders in the community
The Ministry of Social Development (MSD), Housing New Zealand, and Corrections all have roles in supporting offenders into stable and suitable accommodation. The challenging housing environment at present, alongside socio-economic factors affecting offenders and the growing base of offenders under our management, is making it difficult for Corrections to find suitable accommodation for offenders in the community.
A lack of housing makes it less likely that bail and parole applications will be granted, and less likely that home detention will be used as a sentencing alternative to prison. Further, it is known that education, health and employment outcomes are negatively impacted by a lack of access to stable and suitable housing.
Corrections has reviewed the provision of transitional accommodation and provides around 1,000 supported, transitional and emergency accommodation places for offenders each year. Further, we are working alongside Housing New Zealand, MSD, and iwi entities to design a number of services to meet offenders’ housing needs, including improving the quality of services to high-risk community- based offenders and expanding our supported accommodation places. We’ve recently updated our relationship agreement with Housing New Zealand and continue to progress and expand our joint initiatives. Budget 2018 sets aside $57.6 million over the next four years to provide housing and support services for over 300 people a year.
By co-ordinating our response with that of Housing New Zealand and MSD, and strengthening our partnerships with iwi Māori we should see an improvement in community safety, a reduction in the risk of re-offending, and improved confidence in Corrections’ ability to keep the community safe. Further, the provision of stable housing – by enabling bail, parole and home detention – will directly contribute to a reduction in the prison population.
Working in the justice sector
Corrections has a key role in the justice sector, working alongside a number of agencies to maintain and improve the quality and accessibility of justice in New Zealand. Our sector partners include the Ministry of Justice, Police, the Serious Fraud Office, Oranga Tamariki, and Crown Law.
Corrections is at the end of the criminal justice ‘pipeline’ and involved in sentence management, rehabilitation, transition and reintegration, and community-based support. Legislative settings, policing and judicial trends, and crime rates determine who enters Corrections’ care. Our day-to-day operations require constant co- operation with our partners.
Improving the efficiency with which the justice sector operates is one way to reduce the number of people in prison. For example, by developing needs based plans for defendants (to assist with their applications to the court for bail), and preparing offenders for parole sooner, Corrections is able to reduce demand for prison beds.
Input from the broader justice sector will be key to achieving the government’s long- term priorities of reducing the number of people in prison and improving outcomes for Māori.
Working with the social sector
We currently manage around 30,000 offenders in the community. Further, the vast majority of the more than 10,500* people in prison will return to the community at some point in the future. Corrections works alongside social sector organisations to provide the support these people need to live in the community safely.
As discussed earlier, Corrections works with MSD and Housing New Zealand to support offenders into stable accommodation, reducing their risk of re-offending and enabling them to serve their sentences and orders in the community. We also work with MSD to ensure offenders receive financial and employment support upon release from prison, and non-governmental organisations to assist offenders with obtaining photo identification, driver licences, IRD numbers, and other community-based assistance.
Corrections has specifically targeted Māori offenders with the implementation of some of its support services. For example, Whare Oranga Ake uses a kaupapa Māori environment to help prisoners train for employment, find work, find
accommodation on release and form supportive relationships with iwi, hapū, and community organisations while strengthening their cultural identity. Our research shows Māori offenders do not retain rehabilitative gains as strongly as non-Māori offenders and we therefore, have an opportunity to improve outcomes for these offenders by designing services that address this discrepancy.
However, as with many aspects of Corrections, support services continue to be stretched by the increasing prisoner population. As large numbers of prisoners progress through their custodial sentences and into the community, we can expect greater demand for these types of community-based services. Additionally, the number of high-risk offenders subject to community-based orders, such as extended supervision orders, is expected to continue to increase. This will mean that co-operating with our social sector partners will be more important than ever before for the maintenance of public safety.
*as at 18 June 2018