Kim Workman has written a discussion paper for the Hon Kelvin Davis, Minister of Corrections. It addresses the Minister’s intention to reduce the prison population by 30% over the next 15 years.
This paper is intended to feed into future discussion about a downsizing strategy for New Zealand. It describes and analyses the experience of four states (California, New Jersey, New York and Alaska) that have successfully downsized their prison population by more than 25% over ten years, and also describes the historical experience of downsizing in Canada, Finland and Germany. It considers: (a) the current New Zealand situation, (b) the strategies implemented by selected nations and states that have successfully downsized, (c) the outcomes of downsizing; and (d) the evidence-based principles which support a downsizing strategy.
The key findings support the Minister’s intention.
The Reduction of the prison population by 30% over the next 15 years, is readily achievable, and probably conservative.
Surveys show there is a public willingness for change.
Confirms that reducing the remand population is an essential and urgent step to reducing reoffending.
There is no evidence that shortening sentences increases reoffending.
There is no evidence one way or the other, that releasing prisoners early is a threat to public safety.
There is no real difference, in terms of reoffending, between prison sentences and community based sentences.
Prison based rehabilitation programmes are ethically wise, but make no significant impact on reducing the prison population.
If downsizing is the goal, rehabilitation and reintegration resources are better directed toward community-based desistance programmes.
Surveillance on its own is ineffective, and should be accompanied by treatment.
From what I can garner, ACT’s policy was directed at a significant expansion of the literacy and numeracy programme in prison, on the basis of the following principles:
Offenders who complete numeracy and literacy courses in prison, or passed their driving licence test, would have the length of their sentences reduced by up to six weeks a year, with a cap of 18 week’s reduction on a three year sentence – an 11.5% reduction;
Well-educated prisoners who mentored other prisoners would also be eligible for a similar reduction in their sentence;
ACT would make it easier for volunteers to gain approval to carry out this kind of work in prisons;
Decisions on eligibility for the course, would be made by the Parole Board;
The policy would be part of any coalition arrangement with National.
Just as exciting was the thinking behind the proposal. Prisoners needed positive incentives to become productive, law abiding citizens, David Seymour said. Many lacked the skills required to lead normal, productive lives. They needed to take responsibility for their lives, and this policy would provide that incentive. What is more, suitable volunteers and well-educated prisoners would run these programmes at a reasonable cost. Continue reading Disengaging from the ‘Tough on Crime’ Mantra→