Friday, 29 August 2014

Th BPS Reducing Crime and Reoffending Plan: Pt Two - The Reducing Reoffending Statistic


by Kim Workman

The Reducing Reoffending Statistic - Pushing the Boat Out

“He Who Pushes Boat Out Too Far Will End Up Trimming Sails”
Ancient Proverb
Nigel Latta – Behind Bars

 Last Tuesday night’s TVOne documentary, ‘Nigel Latta –Behind Bars, should be gift wrapped and presented to all current and future parliamentarians.  I can’t recall any documentary about prisons and the criminal justice system, which assembled such a range of ‘talking heads’ – criminal justice professionals, academics, ex-prisoners and prison officers,  - presenting an array of many-faceted conversations about the merits or otherwise, of prison.  Each conversation had the potential to trigger public discussion and dialogue. 

My attention however, was drawn to a short conversation between Nigel Latta and Corrections CEO, Ray Smith, in which Ray spoke about the work transition, vocational training, and rehabilitation programmes currently operating within the prison system, how  the reoffending rate had reduced by 12.5%, and was targeted toward a 25% reduction by 2017. 

‘Pushing the Boat Out’


Ray told Nigel Latta, that he had received advice that it was difficult to reduce reoffending beyond  about  5%.  He had decided to ‘push the boat out’ and aim for a reduction of 25% by 2017.  Rethinking understands there was a push from senior government advisers to go for ‘big, audacious goals’, rather than goals which could be supported  by existing evidence.  Some senior Corrections managers were strongly opposed to the idea, and resigned.
 
My own experience, overseas contacts and everything I had read, suggested that attaining a goal of that magnitude had never been achieved anywhere in the world, and the most one could hope for was a 5% reduction over two to three years.   While I admired the Minister’s courage in aiming for the goal, I wondered how it could be achieved.  When   Corrections reported an 11% reduction in reoffending in the fiscal year to June 2013, I commented on it in an October 2013  newsletter article “The Reducing Crime Rate –It’s Not All Smoke and Mirrors”, I had this to say: 

“There is one other figure that is mystifying people familiar with crime statistics; the  reduction of reoffending by 11% in the fiscal year to June 2013.  No one can recall ever seeing a reduction of that magnitude in a 12 month period.  It means 1,947 fewer offenders returning against a target of 4,600 fewer by 2017. The official explanation is that this significant drop is due to the Policing Excellence programme, with its emphasis on alternative resolutions, and the Department of Corrections’ investment in enhancing rehabilitation services across the offender population, (although it notes that the roll-out of rehabilitation measures on re-offending will not become evident in the next two years).  Whatever it is, it is likely to attract international attention if it tracks toward a 25% reduction by 2017."

At the time, I was unable to reconcile the progress reports from the Better Public Service (BPS) Reducing Crime and Reoffending  strategy with other information we had about the reoffending rate.  In April 2014 I pointed out that Salvation Army’s State of the Nation report presented a different view

My public concern was sufficient to prompt an invitation from the Department of Corrections to myself and colleagues to visit, and have the statistics explained.  I suffer from a major block wherever numbers and statistics are concerned, and had difficulty understanding what was happening.  Not so my colleagues, some of whom made a second trip, and were then able to advise me how this significant reduction was achieved. 

Prior to the meeting, we assumed that the BPS approach was to measure all people with a previous conviction, and report annually on any reduction in the reoffending rate.  It was not unreasonable, as the network survey  referred to in Part One of this blog showed that 80% of all respondents believed the same thing.  We subsequently discovered that the reoffending rate related only to offenders currently being managed by the Department of Corrections. 

Achieving a 12.5% Reduction in Re-offending  - How it is Done

The methodology used to arrive at the 12.5% reduction in reoffending is set out below.  The figures below may not be precisely accurate; but the methodology works like this:
 
Step One:  Establish a Baseline

1.       The base line was established in June 2011
·         2033 of the 7502  prisoners released the previous year, went back to prison, giving a base re-imprisonment rate of 27.1%;
·         16,190 of those 53,246 starting a community sentence were reconvicted, giving a base re-conviction rate of 30.4%
·         The two figures were combined, giving a total number of offenders of 18223.
 
2.      The decision was made to reduce the 18,223 by 25% and round it off to 4,600 fewer offenders. 

Step Two:  Results by October 2013

3.  There were 1981 less ex-prisoners re-imprisoned ; 52 less than the  June 2011 baseline of 2033.   That is a reduction of 2.56% in re-imprisoned offenders.

4.  There were 14,166 community sentenced offenders, 2024 less than the  June 2011 baseline of 16,190.  That is a reduction of 12.5% in re-convicted  community based offenders. 

Step Three:  Calculate the Reduction in Reoffending

5.  If there was a 2.56% reduction in prisoner reoffending, over two years, and a 12.5% reduction in reoffending by community based offenders, where did the 11.28% overall reduction come from?    Simple.  The department  added the 52 prisoners and the 2024 community based offenders together, a total of 2076, and came up with a combined weighted average reduction of 11.28%. 

Step Four:  Results in  2014

6.  There were 1921 less ex-prisoners re-imprisoned ;  112 less than the  June 2011 baseline of 2033.   That is a reduction of 5.51% in re-imprisoned offenders. 

7.   In October 2013 there were 14,060 community sentenced offenders, 2130 less than the  June 2011 baseline of 16,190.  That is a reduction of 12.5% in re-convicted  community based offenders.  That is a reduction of 13.16% of the June 11 baseline. 

Step Five:  Latest Calculation

8.  Corrections added the 112 prisoners and the 2130 community based offenders together, a total of 2242, and came up with a combined weighted average reduction of 12.3%   
Mission accomplished. 

What Does this All Mean?

In simple terms, it means that:
  • The percentage of ex-prisoners who re-offended, reduced by 5.51% over 3 years or 1.8% per year
  • The percentage of offenders on community service who reoffended, reduced by 13.6% or 4.5% per year
  • Weighted together overall offending reduced by 12.3%
The Public Have Been Misled

A reduction of 1.8 % per year over three years, for prisoners is a positive outcome; and in line with what one could expect from a Corrections organisation committed to reducing reoffending.  But a reduction of 5.5% over three years in reoffending by ex-prisoners is not a reduction of  12.5% 

Unfortunately, the way the information has been presented to the public through progress reports and media releases, is misleading.  The media spin has left the public with the distinct impression that there has been a 12.5% reduction in reoffending, due to efforts in prison rehabilitation
.  
On 2 April, in the  Prime Minister's address to the North Harbour Club he credited the prisons with achieving the 12.6% reduction on their own. 

“In prisons, for example, we have focused very strongly on literacy and numeracy, skills training, treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, working prisons and reintegration of ex-prisoners into the community. That is giving offenders the opportunity to turn their lives around and stay away from crime.  Already this approach has reduced reoffending by 12.6 per cent, which is halfway to the target we've set ourselves of a 25 per cent drop.”

A month earlier, Minister Anne Tolley while according Community Probation a passing nod, described a range of prison based programmes and initiatives which she credited with impacting on the reoffending rate.     Here are some of the highlights:

Reoffending has fallen by 12.6 per cent against the June 2011 benchmark, resulting in 2,319 fewer offenders and 9,276 fewer victims of crime each year.
 “There have been unprecedented increases in prisoner and community offender rehabilitation under this Government, which are already paying dividends.
“Our focus on education, skills training, addiction treatment, working prisons and reintegration is giving offenders the opportunity to turn their lives around and stay away from crime.
There has been a 1500 per cent increase in places on drug and alcohol treatment programmes for prisoners since 2008.
At the same time, there has been a 155 per cent increase in the number of prisoners starting literacy and numeracy programmes, and an 830 per cent jump in the number of prisoners gaining qualifications.
We are determined to reach our target of a 25 per cent reduction in reoffending by 2017, which will result in huge benefits for communities and taxpayers.

It will mean safer streets, with 18,500 fewer victims of crime each year, as well as 4,000 fewer community offenders and 600 less prisoners in jails.”

Documentaries like ‘Nigel Latta: Locked Up’ and the 29 June Marae Programme “Working Toward Freedom” featured Corrections officials talking about a 12.5% reduction, and doing so within a prison setting.  


What About the Reduction in Offending by Community Sentenced Offenders?

As at June 2011, there were only 7,502 prisoners released, and a whopping 53,246 offenders who started a community based sentence.
 
At first glance, Corrections would seem to have been much more successful in its efforts to reduce reoffending by community –based offenders.  An annual average reduction of 4.5% and an impressive 13.6% reduction in reoffending is not to be sniffed at.  Why wasn’t there significant publicity about this result?
 
Most people who know, suggest that the reduction in community-based reoffending had very little to do with Corrections.  The view currently held is that two things have happened.  First, there has been a significant drop in the number of community-based offenders who are being charged with offences against justice , which includes  breaches of a sentence or court order (e.g. periodic detention, supervision, community service, parole, bail, and non-molestation orders).   The numbers of offenders charged with these offences have reduced from 55,681 in 2010/11 to 47,345 in 2012/13.  Second, community-based offenders who commit other minor offences, are more likely to be dealt with by the Police through alternative dispositions e.g. warnings, counselling, than by way of prosecution.  This is a positive move, as the great majority of this group offend at the lower end of the spectrum, and are likely to respond positively to being offered alternatives.   But it may also explain why the reoffending rate by community offenders has plummetted

Building Trust in Government -  Dealing with the Democratic Deficit

 It will be critical to review the way the Justice Sector and its responsible Minsters inform the public about the BPS Reducing Crime and Reoffending Strategy beyond 2014.  There is growing suspicion about the results –any ongoing spin needs to stop. 
The offending statistics are already the subject of scepticism and speculation.  In October 2013, ,
in the  article “It’s Not All Smoke and Mirrors” we also  raised concern about the reported drop in the number of people charged with a violent offence, (a 19% percent reduction over the previous five years).   

“A change in the way statistics are gathered, no longer makes it possible to distinguish between family violence and other violence.  Increasingly, those in the domestic violence sector are reporting fewer prosecutions, more diversions for what they consider to be serious offences,  a trend toward not charging offenders and a greater reliance on the victim being the evidence provider.  It is a regression to the policies of the 1960’s.  We are concerned that despite their experience of levels of family violence remaining steady, if not increasing, Police statistics are showing that offences are falling.”

This concern was justified, when in July 2014, new figures issued by the Family Violence Clearinghouse at Auckland University  showed that charges for male assaults against female, applications for protection orders and prosecutions for breaches of protection orders all increased up to 2009-10, but had all fallen since then by between 14 per cent and 29 per cent.  The number of police investigations into family violence incidents kept on climbing from 86,800 in 2010 to 95,100 incidents last year.  But the number of investigations that led to an offence being recorded dropped from 45,500 to 37,900 - from 52 per cent of all incidents investigated in 2010 to 40 per cent last year.
A more recent example, is the Minster of Corrections claim that 28% of prisoners are  gang members.  Gang Expert Dr Jarrod Gilbert in an opinion piece to the NZ Herald corrected the issue, and subsequently went to bat with blogster DavidFarrar on the issue. 
The new government  must consult the public about future plans to reduce crime and re-offending.  We have arrived at a point where the public will forgive almost anything, provided the government of the day is truthful and straightforward. 
Dealing with the Unintended Consequences – The Bigger Picture

Rethinking’s concern is not only with issues of transparency and accountability.  It has as much to do with the extent to which this misinformation might guide policy decisions now and in the future.  The false belief that prisons are making a significant impact on reducing reoffending, could have serious implications downstream, as government decides where and how to invest its resources.  We have identified the following issues. 

Prisons Don’t Work

The Salvation Army’s Pre-Election Campaign video on Crime and Justice , put the facts bluntly.  Of the 9,000 prisoners released annually, 4000 commit another crime within 12 months, and 3000 return to prison within 2 years.  Prison’s Don’t Work. 

But that is not the message that the Department of Corrections is sending.  Constant publicity about the success of prisons in reducing reoffending (by 12.5%!) misleads the public, and could result in  the  misguided belief that prison based rehabilitation is highly successful.  There is no compelling evidence for that.  A recent report from the Washington State Institute of Public Policy, a world leader in assessing the cost/benefit of correctional programmes, found that while imprisoning high-risk offenders provides a marginally positive return, imprisoning low- and medium-risk people provides a negative benefit-cost ratio.[1]  In the Department’s own publication [2] it examines  reviews and meta analysis and confirms the view that community-based programmes generate better outcomes than custodial programmes, with community programmes generating effect sizes approximately double those of institutional programmes.[3] [4] [5]

Over-hyping prisons  as an ideal place to conduct rehabilitation, can result in a culture developing, in which prison staff and indeed politicians, persuade themselves that ‘prisons work’.  Take one example. 

A recent Corrections pamphlet on treating young offenders, includes the following claim:
 
"Spending time in prison can open up a new world of opportunities for those young people who may have missed out on schooling or never had a job."[6]

Promoting prison as a positive experience for young offenders ignores the fact that 89% of youth prisoners have previously been in the care or supervision of Child, Youth and Family.  If the state is competent to provide a sound education and transition to work, it would have done so when they were under CYF supervision or care.  They have failed young offenders miserably, and the Corrections record is no better -  reoffending statistics show that around 80% will reoffend after leaving prison. 

This reasoning also flies in the face of the existing evidence about  the effect of incarceration on young offenders.  New Zealander’s Ian Lambie and Isabel Randell’s recent research  shows that: 

  • Incarcerating youth in prison has little positive impact in reducing crime.
  • The literature highlights this problem, particularly in adult facilities.
  • There are many negative effects from incarcerating young people in prisons.
  • Incarceration fails to address both the young person's developmental and criminogenic needs.[7]

Reinvestment within and beyond the Justice Sector

Publicity that over-sells the effectiveness of prisons, could well result in the government over-investing in prison-based programmes, and under-investing in community based rehabilitation, either within Corrections, or elsewhere.
 
There is a growing concern within the community sector for example, that the 1500% increase in drug treatment programmes within the prisons, has not been matched by government investment in community based drug and alcohol facilities.  On the contrary, the number of community residential drug treatment facilities have reduced in the last five years, with many offenders assessed for treatment, waiting 2 – 3  months  to get access to a programme.   The Auckland Drug Courts have been highly successful, but are experiencing the same problem.   In the view of some, the judiciary   have been sentencing some offenders to prison, to ensure treatment – adequate community based treatment could obviate that decision.

Community Investment
The pre-election video released  by the Salvation Army on ‘Crime and Punishment’, makes the point well.  
The District courts are packed with young offenders struggling with drug and alcohol and mental health issues.  Many will appear repeatedly before the Court, without access to community based treatment, until they are finally sent to prison – where possibly for the first time, treatment is available.
Four of the six action plans identified in the BPS Reducing Crime and Reoffending Strategy relate to issues raised by the Salvation Army:
·         Improve assessment and interventions for youth
·         Reduce availability of alcohol
·         Increase alcohol and drug treatment in the community
·         Strengthen rehabilitation and re-integration services to prepare and support people to live law-abiding lives

An Increase in the Prison Population

In the light of the government’s success in reducing crime and reoffending, one would have expected  the prison population to decline.  Minister Anne Tolley, in her March media release, promised that there would be 600 less prisoners by 2017.  Roger Brooking has commented on this issue. The alarming news is that the current prison population stands at 8,754 as at 28 Aug, an increase of 119 prisoners on the 8,535 that were in prison 12 months ago.
 
The reason for this increase is straightforward.  The government do not have, within its BPS Reducing Crime and Reoffending Plan, a goal or a strategy to reduce imprisonment -  despite the Hon Bill English’s 2009 declaration that ‘prisons are a fiscal and moral failure’.
 
The Way Forward – Being Smart on Crime


Rethinking’s view is clear.  The Justice Sector and its responsible Minsters need to re-group post-election, and together with the State Services Commission and other agencies, review the current BPS Reducing Crime and Reoffending Action Plan.  In our view, the meeting agenda should include the following items:


1.  Review the Communication Strategy
For all the reasons set out above, the BPS Strategy must find ways of reducing the ‘democratic deficit’.  The general public are tired of spin, and want to join with government in
reducing crime and reoffending.  Ideally, the strategy should include a public consultation process of the kind implemented  when Ministers Power and Sharples launched the initial Ministerial Meeting for the ‘Drivers of Crime’ strategy – an initiative which sadly, has lost its way.
  
2.  Review the Goals
There are two things that need to happen.  First, goals that are hugely aspirational are fine, but they deserve to be based on evidence based research, rather than media hype.  Incentivisation is a double edged sword.  On the one hand it can encourage the development of a highly motivated work culture.  On the other, it can encourage  a culture of duplicity and deceit; a workplace where the end justifies rather naughty means. 
Second, take the time to consider whether there are not more effective means of achieving the desired results.  New goals may be required.  For example,  there is no goal for reducing imprisonment levels.  Often, the current penchant is for  measures which focus on monitoring and control;  often the least effective in reducing crime.   I have already argued that the offender’s register, (a monitoring device) is ineffective,  and a strategy which aims at ‘outing’ unknown child sex offenders, and encouraging them to seek treatment, would produce a better result.  The $35.5 million Cabinet has agreed will be spent over the next ten years, would be far better invested in a community prevention strategy.  

3.  Conduct a Cost Benefit Analysis

Closely aligned with goal review, is the challenge to focus on programmes and initiatives
which provide a cost benefit.  Again, the movement from expensive monitoring and control measures to prevention programmes usually produce superior results. The prestigious Washington State Institute of Public Policy, a world leader in cost-benefit analysis, rate the use of extended supervision orders for released sex offenders as the least cost effective intervention in the corrections arsenal – a return of 9c for every dollar spent.  On the other hand, Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) for released sex offenders, have been proven highly effective, but have received almost no funding over the last eight years. 

4.  Establish Independent Evaluation of Justice Programmes and Initiatives

At present, there is a high reliance on government agencies to report on their own success.  There is a growing (but unproven) concern that reported results are inevitably positive, and that some results are out of kilter with comparative programmes conducted overseas.  If New Zealand is to preserve its reputation, it is important that there is a higher level of external audit and evaluation around programme design and implementation.  

5.  Consider Justice Reinvestment

It is equally important to consider not only which programmes work best, but where.  There may need to be a reinvestment of Corrections funding for rehabilitation programmes from the prisons into community probation.  The Health sector needs to be engaged in a higher level of investment in community based drug and alcohol treatment programmes, and mental health initiatives. 

It could also result in a re-appraisal of the role of Community Probation, in reducing reoffending.  Recent and emerging research shows that a greater investment in staff development  around relationship skills, problem-solving, and structuring interviews, the introduction of the ‘good lives’ model, and desistance theory have all served to lower the recidivism rate of offenders supervised by probation officers, in comparison to control groups that did not receive training.[8]  There is also strong evidence that while families, whanau and communities can be the sites or sources of pressure to offend, they also play a vital role in the reduction of offending.  While there is already a positive turnaround occurring within Probation, the question arises as to whether there should not be greater investment in that part of the system. 

Significantly, there is emerging strong  evidence for a more holistic approach, which maximises the use of community resources, including volunteers, - a little-studied, but valued resource for rehabilitation and reintegration.  In terms of the prevailing risk, needs, responsivity model, it calls for less emphasis on risk, and more emphasis on responsivity. [9]

6.  Acknowledge that Prison Doesn’t Work

Underpinning a review of the BPS Reducing Crime and Reoffending Strategy, must lie the assumption that prison doesn’t work.  Everything we read, watch, and research, tells us the same thing.

Let Professor Emeritus Andrew Coyle, former Director of the International Centre for Prison Studies, Kings College and a former Prison Governor of many years’ experience, have the last word.  In a foreword to the ‘The Effects of Imprisonment’[10] he summed it up neatly:

“It seems to me that there is also another dangerous influence at work and that is the proposition advanced by some people who work in and around the prison system that good can come out of imprisonment; that it can be an important method of changing the behaviour and attitude of those who are sent there, so that they will come out better people and much less likely to commit crime as a result of their experiences in prison.  This is what Nils Christie has called the denial of existence strategy’;

“Study after study has shown how penal measures and long-term incarceration have been made more acceptable to society if they were disguised as treatment, training, or pure help to suffering individuals in need of such measures.”[11]

As a result, in England and Wales, many prisoners are now required to undergo ‘programmes’ in an attempt to change their behaviour, the number of women in prison has increased four times within a very short period; in some parts of the country drug addicts can get better treatment than in the community,; and it is now claimed that some difficult children are better of in prison service custody than in a welfare environment.  Duguid [12]’ has characterised  this phenomenon, which of course is not new, as treating the prisoners as ‘object rather than subject’ someone whose only role is to co-operate with decisions made by others, rather than someone to be encouraged to take control of his or her own life.”  

7.  Review the Purpose of Prisons

The larger question that government and government officials must then grapple with is this:  What should prisons do?

Andrew Coyle, [13]in the same Foreword, addresses that very question:

“During all the years that I worked in prisons I never ceased to ask myself why I did so.  This was not because of obsessive uncertainty about my chosen career.  Rather, it came from a desire never to lose sight of the reality of what I was doing.  Shorn of all subtleties and rationalisations, my task was to deprive other human beings of their liberty.  I tried to ensure that I did so in the most decent and humane way possible.  I attempted to reduce the pain of imprisonment for those men who were under my care.  I did my best to provide them with opportunities to make positive use of their enforced time in captivity.  But in doing all those things it was important always to remember that prison is by its very nature a debilitating experience.  That is why in any decent and democratic society the imposition of imprisonment should always be an instrument of last resort, only to be used when there is no other option.” 

Recent Developments - Report on the visit of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to New Zealand

 Today, I received a copy of the  Report on the visit of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to New Zealand (CAT/OP/NZL/ 1) , formulated following a visit to New Zealand in April and May 2013. 
It effectively answers the question, as to what prison priorities must be.   The report is highly critical of the New Zealand’s overuse of imprisonment, the  New Zealand prison system, and its treatment of prisoners.  For example:
 

  • ·         It recommends an overhaul of the classification system; prisoners belonging to different categories were often subjected to the same rules in terms of hours of lock-down, food, exercise etc. Prolonged exposure to inappropriate regime conditions, such as those which it observed for remand prisoners and youth, constitute ill-treatment;

·         Remand prisoners were routinely locked-down for up to 19 hours  per day while awaiting trial, in addition to a lack of appropriate facilities for exercise and delays in access to medical assistance. Periods of “out of cell time” were, in practice, significantly shorter than was claimed;

·         Youth detainees were de facto penalized by the system, despite their vulnerability, since they were subject to 19 hours lock-downs, whereas convicted and sentenced adult prisoners in other wings of the same prison were subject to a more favourable regime;

·         While it is necessary to have completed a number of training and rehabilitation programmes before parole can be granted, there was a shortage of places on such programmes, especially in womens’ prisons. The practical difficulties of managing prisoners’ movements in accordance with the classification system had the effect of impeding some detainees to attend courses and thus prevented them from being released on parole to which they would otherwise have been eligible;

·         Significant declines in the overall numbers of recorded offences and  prosecutions has not led to a reduction in the prison population.  More needs to be done if the ambitious governmental plan to reduce reoffending by 25 % by 2017 is to be achieved.  There must be a great focus on  programmes of social reintegration, as well as more active involvement with the Māori community, including strengthening indigenous initiatives and  developing community-based Māori specific programmes focusing on prevention of reoffending’;

·         The department needs to consider the causes of increased prison violence and that its response should take account of both staff and prisoner’s safety, promote a positive prison culture, and include improved communication between staff and prisoners;

·         The government needs to do more to intensify its efforts to tackle inter-prisoner violence by addressing its causes, including problems arising from gang cultures, the lack of purposeful activities, substance abuse, restricted out of cell time, as well as through staff training;

·         The threshold for admitting detainees with mental health needs to a local hospital is extremely high, partly because of long waiting lists and delays in admissions for those outside the prison system. As a result, detainees who have made multiple suicide attempts  as well as those with acute or chronic mental health conditions were not being transferred to appropriate psychiatric facilities and were being held in “at risk units”, often for prolonged periods of time and in conditions akin to that of a disciplinary regime. The denial of qualified psychiatric assistance under such circumstances and in such conditions amounts to ill-treatment;

·         Prisoners are often  still in their cells until 8.30am and locked up well before 4.30pm , meaning that, in reality, many detainees are in their cells for 18-19 hours per day, and even longer at weekends. There are harmful effects to  being held in so strict a regime for many years, especially those held at the Maximum Security facilities in Auckland. Cells were comparatively small (for example, a block of Hastings prison where cells were approximately 2,25 x  2.85 square meters). When combined with the lack of access to an adequate range of activities, such prolonged periods of incarceration in comparatively small cells constitute ill-treatment;

·         The meals provided in prison were of low nutritional value, and monotonous.  Dinner was served around 15.30, leaving detainees without food until at least 8.30 am of the next day. Priosners complained about the list of items that could be purchased, in particular regarding prices, limited choice and unhealthy items which failed to compensate for the paucity and monotony of the food provided.

·         The management cells and yards (for managing prisoners who breach discipline) at Mount Eden prison were in a deplorable hygienic state. The newly built management cells at the Auckland Maximum Security prison (where persons were held in solitary confinement) were extremely small, were under constant video surveillance, afforded little room for internal movement or activity and can best be likened to a tin-can. The so-called ‘exercise yard’ was a small cage situated immediately across the corridor from the cell and afforded no opportunity for ‘exercise’ at all. One person was detained in such a cell for what appears to be an unspecified and open-ended period of time, for security reasons.

·         The Committee has grave doubts as to the efficacy of the complaint and appeal mechanisms surrounding the use of these cells. It considered  considers the use of these cells for any prolonged period to amount to ill-treatment and wonders whether their use under any circumstances can be other than inhuman or degrading.

·         The lack of exposure to sunlight in some cell blocks, meant that prisoners had to be issued with Vitamin D tablets. 

Rethinking’s view is that the focus must now be on restoring New Zealand’s former reputation as a nation that treated it’s prisoners humanely, and with respect. 

Concluding Comment

Florence Nightingale famously argued that the first principle of the hospital should be to do the sick no harm.[14]  A recent history of prison standards begins by arguing that Nightingale undoubtedly would have expressed a similar principle for prisons.[15]  It seems she actually did – or at least argued that we should do more research into whether or not prisons caused harm.  In a letter to the Manchester Guardian in 1890, Nightingale laments the fact that ‘criminology is much less studied than insectology’ and argues that:  ‘It would be of immense importance if the public had kept before them the statistics, well worked out, of the influence of punishment on crime or of reformatories and industrial schools on juvenile offenders.”  Armed with such knowledge, she believed, no rational society would support a system of reformation that made its subjects more likely to offend upon their release than they were prior to admittance. 

Let’s run a system that does the sick no harm. 



[1] Washington State Institute for Public Policy, ‘Prison, Police, and Programs – Evidence-based Options that Reduce Crime and Save Money’, (Nov 13)
[2] Department of Corrections, ‘What Works Now? A review and update of research evidence relevant to offender rehabilitation practices within the Department of Corrections, December 2009, p.47
[3] Andrews, D. & Bonta, J. (2006) The psychology of criminal conduct, 4th Edition. Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Publishing Co.
[4] Parhar, K., Wormith, J., Derkzen, D. & Beauregard, A. (2008). Offender coercion in treatment: A meta-analysis of effectiveness, Criminal Justice and Behaviour, 35.9, 1109-1135.
[5] Tong, L. & Farrington, D. (2006). How effective is the “Reasoning and Rehabilitation” programme in reducing re-offending? A meta-analysis of evaluations in four countries, Psychology, Crime & Law, 12.1, 3-24. 
[6] Department of Corrections, ‘Young People Who Offend’ - http://www.corrections.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/756566/YoungPeople.pdf
[7] Lambie, Ian and Isabel Randell, ‘The Impact of Incarceration on Juvenile Offenders’ Clinical Psychology Review, Vol 32, Issue No 1, February 2013 448-459
[8] McNeill, F.P.RAynor and C. Trotter (2010) ‘Conclusion: Where are we now’ in F. McNeill, P.Raynor and C. Trotter (ed) Offender Supervision: New Directions and Theory, Research and Practice, Willan Publishing: Oxford,  p.537
[9] McNeill, P.538
[10]Coyle, Andrew (2005) Foreword in A.Liebling and S. Maruna (ed.) ‘The Effects of Imprisonment’ Willan Publishing: Devon, p.xx
[11] Christie, N. (1978) ‘Prisons in Society or Society in Prison’, in J. Freeman (ed.) Prisons, Past and Future.  London: Heinemann.  
[12] Duguid, S. (2000)Can Priosns Work, The Prisoner as Object and subject in modern corrections.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press.  p.230
[13] Coyle, Andrew (2005) Foreword, p.xix
[14] Nightingale, F.  (1859) Notes on Hospitals.  London: Parker and Son
[15] Keve, P.W. (1996) Measuring Excellence: The History of Correctional Standards and Accreditation.  Lanham, MD; American Correctional Association. 

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