Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Corrections Act changes aim to improve prisoner outcomes

New legislation to improve rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners will have its first reading in Parliament this afternoon.

Corrections Minister, Kelvin Davis says the proposed changes to the Corrections Act will allow the limited mixing of remand and convicted prisoners for educational, religious, kaupapa Māori and therapeutic programmes essential for integrating back into society.

“Currently people on remand have limited access to programmes, such as alcohol and drug treatment, because they cannot be mixed with sentenced prisoners who have been found guilty of a crime, but that doesn’t mean they should be stopped from getting the help they need,” said Minister Davis.

“The Bill will allow them to take part in those therapeutic programmes while also protecting the important principle that remand accused prisoners are treated as innocent – part of our binding international commitments.

“The changes should also increase access for people on remand to literacy and numeracy programmes as the low number of participants can sometimes mean courses do not have the required number of people to be run. This change will allow a remand prisoner to join a class involving convicted prisoners if they wish to.”

Another key change in the legislation will build on Corrections’ current strategy, Hōkai Rangi, to further improve rehabilitation and reintegration outcomes for Māori who make up a disproportionate percentage of the prison population, the Minister said.

“Our approach is making a real difference when it comes to things like reconviction and reimprisonment rates, which are all trending downwards.”

“These changes will help boost that approach and will also lead to better outcomes for non-Māori in prison, who are also eligible for these programmes.”

Mr Davis said other updates to the Corrections Act will ensure prisoners are held to account for disruptive behaviour and assaults on staff.

While Corrections can currently monitor mail and phone calls of prisoners to ensure the safety of prisons, it has no ability to effectively monitor other technologies such as email, video calling and internet services.

These changes will allow them to do this in limited instances. Restrictions will be in place to ensure privacy impacts are limited and will be confined to higher risk prisoners, the Minister said.

“Technology is changing and we need to make sure concerning behaviour by prisoners can be monitored appropriately, especially to identify potential harm to victims.”

“For example, we need to know if a prisoner is contacting a registered victim or threatening people in the community. But at the same time I expect these powers to always be used appropriately and only when necessary,” Mr Davis said.

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