Department of Corrections (New Zealand)
|Headquarters||Level 9, Mayfair House,|
44-52 The Terrace,
|Employees||7,184 FTE staff|
(30 June 2009)
|Annual budget||Vote Corrections|
Total budget for 2019/20
The Department of Corrections (Māori: Ara Poutama Aotearoa) is the public service department of New Zealand charged with managing the New Zealand corrections system. Corrections' role and functions were defined and clarified with the passing of the Corrections Act 2004. In early 2006, Corrections officially adopted the Māori name Ara Poutama Aotearoa.
The Department of Corrections was formed in 1995, by the Department of Justice (Restructuring) Act 1995. Prior to this prisons, the probation system and the courts were all managed by the Department of Justice. The new Act gave management of prisoners, parolees and offenders on probation to a new Department of Corrections while leaving administration of the court system and fines collection with the Ministry of Justice. The intention was to enable the new Department to improve public safety and assist in the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders.
In 2000, an approach based on enhanced computerised access to information about offenders was tried. The new chief executive of the department, Mark Byers, introduced a $40 million scheme designed to reduce reoffending called Integrated Offender Management (IOM). At the time it was described as "the biggest single initiative the department has undertaken to reduce reoffending". Seven years later, Greg Newbold said the scheme was an expensive failure and described it as "another wreck on the scrapheap of abandoned fads of criminal rehabilitation."
In 2012, the government revealed it would spend $65 million over the next four years on reducing criminal reoffending. It will go towards additional alcohol and drug treatment, increased education, skills training and employment programmes for prisoners. Corrections Minister Anne Tolley and Associate Corrections Minister Dr Pita Sharples said the 'reprioritised' operational funding was aimed at reducing reoffending by 25 per cent by 2017.
The use of private prisons has also been tried, stopped and reintroduced. New Zealand's first privately run prison, the Auckland Central Remand Prison, also known as Mt. Eden Prison, opened under contract to Australasian Correctional Management (ACM) in 2000. In 2004, the Labour Government, opposed to privatisation, amended the law to prohibit the extension of private prison contracts. A year later, the 5-year contract with ACM was not renewed. In 2010, the National Government again introduced private prisons and international conglomerate Serco was awarded the contract to run the Mt Eden Prison. Numerous scandals surrounding the Mt Eden Prison led to Serco's contract not being renewed there.
On 16 July 2015, footage of "fight clubs" within the prison emerged online and was reported by TVNZ. Serco was heavily criticized for not investigating until after the footage was screened. On 24 July 2015, Serco's contract to run the Mount Eden prison was revoked and operation was given back to the New Zealand Department of Corrections. Serco was ordered to pay $8 million to the New Zealand government as a result of problems at Mount Eden Prison while it was under Serco's management.
Serco has also been given the contract to build and manage a new 960-bed prison at Wiri. The contract with Serco provides stiff financial penalties if its rehabilitation programmes fail to reduce reoffending by 10% more than the Corrections Department programmes. The Auckland South Corrections Facility was opened on 8 May 2015. The contract to operate the prison ends in 2040. 
Growth in Prison Population
Since it was established, the department has had to cope with a dramatic growth in the prison population. Between 1997 and 2011 the number of inmates increased by 70% and, at 201 prisoners per 100,000 of population (in 2018), New Zealand has one of the higher rates of imprisonment in the Western world. The Fifth Labour Government built four prisons – at Ngawha (Northern Region) housing 420 prisoners, Springhill (north of Huntly) housing 840, Auckland Women's' holding 330 and Milton (Otago) holding 425 – at a cost of $890 million. When National came to power in 2008, the Department built a new 1,000 bed prison at Mt Eden for $218 million in a public private partnership and gave the contract to Serco.
The Department's growth has been such that in July 2010, Finance Minister Bill English expressed concerns that Government spending was "led by a rapidly expanding prison system which would soon make Corrections the government's biggest department". As at December 2011, New Zealand had 20 prisons and the Department employed over 8,000 staff. The Department's operating budget is over $1 billion a year.
As at 30 September 2019, there were 10,040 people in prison in New Zealand. However, the prison population is very fluid and altogether about 20,000 people spend time in prison each year, the vast majority on remand. Nearly 75% of those given a prison sentence are sentenced to two years or less, and all these are automatically released halfway through their sentence. As 30 September 2019, 93% percent of inmates were male. 51.9% of prisoners were Māori, compared with about 16% of New Zealand's resident population. The cost of keeping a person in prison for 12 months is $91,000. In 2001 the Department estimated that a lifetime of offending by one person costs victims and taxpayers $3 million.
Despite English's concerns about the growing cost, in 2011 the government approved the building of a new 960-bed prison at Wiri estimated to cost nearly $400 million. Later that year justice sector forecasts showed a drop in the projected prison forecast for the first time. Charles Chauvel, Labour Party spokesperson for justice, and the Public Service Association both questioned the need for a new prison when there were 1,200 empty beds in the prison system. In March 2012, Corrections Minister Anne Tolley announced that the new prison would enable older prisons such as Mt Crawford in Wellington and the New Plymouth prison to be closed. Older units at Arohata, Rolleston, Tongariro/Rangipo and Waikeria prisons will also be shut down.
In 2012 the government announced that an extra $65 million would be put into rehabilitation, in an effort to reduce re-offending by 25% within five years. As part of the package, Corrections Minister Anne Tolley indicated the 14,000 offenders who spend time in prison on remand each year would become eligible for rehabilitation for the first time. Rethinking Crime and Punishment spokesman Kim Workman supported the proposals but said it would be difficult to achieve the change given the "very high imprisonment rate" in New Zealand.
On 22 November 2019, it was reported that the Department of Corrections had adopted a policy of referring to prisoners as "men in our care" and "clients." Staff were also instructed to address prisoners by their fist names instead of surnames. The Minister of Corrections Kelvin Davis confirmed that this was part of the Sixth Labour Government's Hōkai Rangi strategy to address the high rate of Māori reoffending and imprisonment by "humanising" prisoners. The Government's decision was criticised by Corrections staff and the Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges as "political correctness" and "being soft on crime."
The Department comprises three service arms and four other groups. The service arms are prisons, community probation, and rehabilitation and reintegration and each arm used to have separate internal processes, infrastructure and support staff. As of May 2012 the newly appointed chief executive, Ray Smith proposed merging the three service arms into one team. Smith said the segregated infrastructure "creates replication of work, is inefficient and has resulted in an overly layered structure."
- Prison Services operates the Department's 19 prisons.
- Juvenile youth justice residences: These are residences that are set across New Zealand for youth who have been sentenced by the youth court and for youth who are awaiting trial. There are a total of 4 of these centers on each region of New Zealand. Each person has their own room and have sharing spaces with other youth. These residences help youth with anger and drug problems and work toward teaching them right from wrong. They also help with job and school skills. Here are the 4 residences: · Korowai Manaaki · The Maioha o Parearangi · Te Au Rere a Tea Tonga · Te Puna Wai o Tuhinapo
- Community Probation Services manage approximately 100,000 community-based sentences and orders per year, and provide information and reports to judges and the New Zealand Parole Board to assist in reaching sentencing and release decisions. Staff also deliver interventions to offenders and prisoners to address their offending behaviour and prepare them for rejoining society.
- Rehabilitation and Reintegration Services delivers interventions to offenders and prisoners to address their offending behaviour. These involve employment, education, constructive activities, specialised treatment services and offence-focused programmes.
- Strategy, Policy and Planning provides strategic planning, policy development and advice, research and evaluation.
- Finance, Systems and Infrastructure provides a range of services that support the delivery of Corrections’ core business.
- Organisational Development provides strategic advice and day-to-day support and services to the Chief Executive and Corrections managers on structural and culture change, human resource management and development, employee health and safety, employee relations and employment law
- The Office of the Chief Executive manages key functions on behalf of the Chief Executive and incorporates Business Continuity and Emergency Planning, Corporate Affairs, Internal Audit, Inspectorate, Ministerial Secretariat, Portfolio Management Office, Professional Standards Unit and the Legal Services Team.
Mark Byers was chief executive of the Department of Corrections for its first ten years, until he retired from the public service in 2005. Byers oversaw a range of organizational initiatives in his time at the helm and, in 2000, introduced a new computer system called "Integrated Offender Management". At the time, this was described as "the biggest single initiative the Department has undertaken to reduce reoffending." IOMS cost $40 million but had no impact of the rate of re-conviction which remained at 55% two years after release.
Barry Matthews, who replaced Byers, had formerly been Deputy Commissioner of Police in New Zealand and the Commissioner of the Western Australian Police Force. He served as chief executive of Corrections for five years from 2005 to 2010 and, in a farewell interview, listed his top three achievements as the implementation of cell phone blocking technology in prisons, better enforcement by the Probation Service of sentence compliance, and the establishment of the Professional Standards Unit to investigate corruption by prison officers.
During Matthews' tenure there was public concern about the management of the Department. Simon Power, Opposition spokesman for justice from 2006 through to 2008, made a number of calls for an inquiry into Corrections, but none was held. In 2009 Matthews' leadership was questioned by the new Corrections Minister, Judith Collins, after a run of bad publicity that included the murder of 17-year-old Liam Ashley in a prison van; the murder of Karl Kuchenbecker by Graeme Burton six months after he was released on parole; and the Auditor General's critical report on the Probation Service's management of parolees. Matthews exacerbated speculation about his leadership during the Burton debacle when he claimed: "There's no blood on my hands". After the Auditor General's report was released in 2009, Collins refused to express confidence in Matthews and media commentators expected him to resign. However, Matthews refused to do so and served out his term; on his retirement he admitted he had dealt with so many crises, the Department was like a "landmine".
Ray Smith, former deputy chief executive of Work and Income and former deputy chief executive of the Ministry of Social Development's Child, Youth and Family, became chief executive in 2010. Six months into his five-year term, Smith said he intended to shuffle the Department's $1.1 billion annual budget to focus more on rehabilitation and wanted his legacy to be a significant reduction in New Zealand's high reoffending rates.
Mental health in prisons
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In New Zealand there are five times more people with mental illness in prison than in the general population. All prisoners who are over eighteen are screened for mental illness and if they are mild to moderate then they will be referred to resources to help them. Prisoners are also more likely to commit suicide or self-harm in prison than the general population. Inmates are interviewed when they arrive to prison to see if they are at risk of committing suicide or self-harming themselves. For inmates who are prone to suicide and self-harm they have fourteen programs to help them and have specific cells which are under twenty-four hours of observation.
Violence in prisons
In April 2015, a 44-year-old inmate, Benton Parata, died in Christchurch Men's Prison after being bashed by three other prisoners. An expert on gangs in New Zealand, Dr Jarrod Gilbert, said revenge attacks could "snowball" out of control while the prison officers' union said assaults in New Zealand prisons already occurred almost daily and it was only "good luck" there weren't more deaths.
In March 2009 analysis of the previous 60 months, showed that 70% of prisoners reoffend within two years of being released from prison and 52% return to prison within five years (some of them more than once). For teenage prisoners, the recidivism rate (return to prison) is 71%. The government estimated that if it reached its reduced reoffending target of 25%, there would be 600 fewer people in prison by 2017. In 2014, prison numbers went up (to 8,700) rather than down, due to more offenders being held on remand.
- List of correctional facilities in New Zealand
- Corrections Association of New Zealand
- New Zealand Parole Board
- New Zealand Probation Service
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