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March 5, 2018 | by  | in News |
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Andrew Little Proposes Criminal Justice Overhaul

Justice Minister Andrew Little has highlighted a need for extensive criminal justice reform in New Zealand. Little believes the tough penalties imposed on criminals under the “so-called law-and-order policies” of the last thirty years have failed in their goal of reducing crime.

“New Zealand needs to completely change the way criminal justice works,” he said in an interview with the New Zealand Herald. “It is a big challenge we are facing. It’s not an issue that’s been a short time in the making.”

New Zealand experienced a rapid increase in the prison population between 2010 and 2017, with incarceration numbers rising from 8244 to 10,500. This number is expected to soar to over 12,000 by 2026, according to a Department of Corrections Briefing.

Little attributed increasing prisoner numbers to “30 years of public policy-making that says we need tougher sentences and to criminalise more behaviour”.

New Zealand currently sits at number eight in the OECD for imprisonment rates, with 199 people incarcerated for every 100,000. The current government has pledged to drop the prison population by 30% over the next 15 years.

“More people being criminalised, more people being sentenced to prison, is that doing anybody any good? A large chunk of prisoners have a whole bunch of other problems that, if fixed, might stop them going into prison in the first place.”

Little also noted the poor conditions in New Zealand prisons as contributing to the problem. He told Newshub Nation that he was “frankly horrified” when he visited Waikeria prison, and that it was “built for a different time,” Little said.

“You have to ask yourself whether this is a place where someone can go from being bad to being good.”

Little has proposed a systemic approach aimed at early intervention and prisoner education, with a focus on rehabilitation and reintegration rather than on punishment.

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