It’s an interesting fact that the one area in which National is going against its traditional approach and moving towards what the experts advocate is prisons. And I think I know why. In education, health, welfare etc National’s ideological positions correspond with cutting spending. But ‘lock em up and throw away the key’ costs. When Bill English called prisons a “moral and fiscal failure” his emphasis was on “fiscal”.
National is now putting $65 million into rehabilitation and reducing reoffending, which sees prisoner numbers reducing by 600 in the next five years (which will save over $60m a year by then).
The Howard League has come out in support of the move, saying it is robust and backed by evidence – how often do you hear that said about this government’s policies? Mike Williams, now working for the Howard League, offers an example of cost-effective, life-enhancing measures to curb reoffending.
So, this is a move that not only saves money but will have good outcomes for the community. And all it took was for National to turn its approach to corrections completely on its head.
The 20-year long decline in crime rates helps too.
Now, the question is: if Corrections has 8,500 people locked up and 11,000 beds, and that number is going to drop below 8,000 in the next five years, why are we spending $900 million on a 960-bed private prison?*
If they really need the beds, couldn’t the existing regional prisons that they’re planning to close be upgraded more cheaply, or are those closures needed to funnel prisoners to Wiri?
*PS can you believe they managed to blow $21m on Wiri before even accepting a tender?