Monday, 23 April 2012

Rethinking Punishment

With New Zealand’s rate of imprisonment second only to the United States, Downtown Community Ministry (DCM) is backing calls for reform of our prison system.

The changes urgently required include: placing the role of Corrections within social service departments, and making sure prisoners get access to remedial education, drug and alcohol programmes and a genuine rehabilitative environment.

Dr Tony Taylor, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Victoria University is one of a number of voices calling for the establishment of an independent penal commission.

“Our current prison system is failing. DCM supports the recommendations for penal reform, and a move towards prison policy based on research and expert advice.” says Stephanie McIntyre, director of DCM.

This is a view supported by the Salvation Army in their 2006 report, “Beyond the Holding Tank.” This report, as well as advocating for an independent penal commission, recommends moving the focus from building more prisons and increasingly harsher sentencing policy to restorative and rehabilitative processes.

Stephanie says, “With illiteracy rates high among prisoners, there is a failure by prisons to use opportunities to address literacy issues. This makes moving into employment once released an even harder task. DCM witnesses first-hand the effects of this, and the increasing need for social services through lack of opportunities for released offenders.”

Bill English commented at a speech to the Families Commission in May this year, that our prison system was a “moral and fiscal failure”. DCM urges the Government to respond to the frequent calls for penal reform.

If you would like to find out more about organisations involved in penal reform in New Zealand, please visit the Rethinking Crime and Punishment website.