Seems the Nats are starting to panic (Shane Cowlishaw on Newsroom):
The Government has been unapologetic for the record high prison population, but that confidence may be beginning to waver. …
Corrections Minister Louise Upston has sought advice about how to curb the surging prison muster, but what those options are remains a secret. It comes as New Zealand’s prison population is forecast to keep rising, with the possibility a new prison facility may not be big enough to cope. In February, the Department of Corrections responded to a request from Upston for an “initial set of options” that could reduce the population.
New Zealand’s prison populations sits at about 10,200 – the highest it has ever been.
While much information is withheld, the briefing does contain some insight into how the prison population has risen so high – a surge of 20 percent since 2014 – and the tough decisions looming. “Long term, the Government will have a choice between the extent of additional investment in prison capacity, or policy and investment decisions across the justice sector that ‘pull back’ the demand curve,” the briefing says.
But the Corrections briefing squarely points the finger at law changes that have seen the remand population balloon. In 2013 the Government changed the Bail Act to make it tougher to get bail, particularly for violent and drug-related crimes. The briefing reveals that in reality, the changes led to a need for 10 times the number of prison beds initially estimated. When the policy was designed, justice officials believed a mere 50 extra beds would be needed each year, but actual demand was for an additional 500. Restorative justice changes had also created demand 10 times the original estimate of 10 beds a year. It would be “useful” to understand why these figures had been so wrong, the briefing says. …
So what do we do about an out of control prison population? They aren’t asking me, but I have some advice anyway:
The band-aid solution is to change sentencing laws so as to send fewer people to prison. Revisit the 2103 law changes and reverse where sensible. Also, treating marijuana and other drug use as a health issue rather than a legal issue would be a good place to start.
A better solution is to put resources into rehabilitation and the prevention of re-offending, instead of prisons.
The best solution is to fix the social conditions that drive crime. The conditions that are giving us more and more frequent headlines such as these:
Aggravated robberies almost double in a year, with an average of one robbery a day reported in South Auckland.
Auckland City Mission overflowing with need in desperate winter months
Faced with skyrocketing power bills, Kiwis opt not to use heaters – survey
Te Puea Marae ready to welcome the homeless
Understanding these conditions isn’t rocket science. Poverty. Inequality. The same desperate lack of hope that gives this country its shocking suicide statistics. Address these issues, fix these causes, and the prison numbers will take care of themselves.