Report urges NZ to reduce inmates by tackling crime before it happens

Long Lunch 29/03/2018
Photo: Getty.

New Zealand is heading in the wrong direction in its justice and prison policy, according to a new report.

The report, released by the Office of the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor, suggests an evidence-based approach would help reduce both inmates and crime in the country.

Inmate numbers are at their highest at 10,700, and it's expected to climb further.  The numbers are projected to hit 12,000 in the next four years.

The report’s lead author Dr Ian Lambie told Wendyl Nissen that proactively tackling crime would lead to better outcomes.

“I think we need to shift the funding and the emphasis far more on early intervention,” Dr Lambie said.

Rather than pouring money into new prisons and inmate costs, Dr Lambie argues that it would be more cost-effective to help children who are most at-risk for future behind bars.

What is $100,000 for a prison bed for a year?

Dr Lambie’s report suggests targeting high-risk youth who have experienced trauma or neglect. By getting those children into cost-effective intervention programmes, the children and their families have been proven to end up in a far better situation than before.

He said these intervention programmes have been proven to work. 

“What is $100,000 for a prison bed for a year?” he asked.

He reminded listeners that when inmates are released, they require reintegration and rehabilitation programmes. These programmes inevitably rack up a hefty bill for the Government.

“By the time people end up in the justice system, they have high rates of mental health problems, addiction problems, literacy problems,” he remarked.

But he doesn’t mean that prisons don’t have a purpose.

“We are not advocating to get rid of prisons,” he said. “Clearly prisons are needed.”

Listen to the full interview with Dr Ian Lambie above.

The Long Lunch with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.