Long-time prison reform campaigner Kim Workman says imprisoning low-level offenders almost guarantees they will re-offend.
He told Morning Talk’s Mark Sainsbury that New Zealand prisons are full of low level offenders who pose little risk to public safety.
“One of the reasons we need to get them out of prison is because by putting them in prison, you increase the chance of them re-offending when they leave.”
According to Mr Workman, a major issue is with the some 25 percent of inmates who are remanding prisoners awaiting trial. Over half of these prisoners don’t end up getting a custodial sentence, he explained.
“So they’re not considered a public safety risk, and the question then is what are they doing in there?” he asked.
But when Sainsbury asked how his proposals address high profile cases that involve violence on bail, Mr Workman said we can’t use such examples to lock everyone up.
The murder of Christie Marceau in 2011 brought national attention to New Zealand bail laws, when she was killed by an eighteen-year-old who was awaiting trial on bail.
Nevertheless the Government may soon soften bail, sentencing and parole laws. Justice Minister Andrew Little announced the repeal of the three strikes law, and will be pushing for sentences shorter than two years to be served as home detention.
Heavily redacted documents released to Newshub Nation suggest large reductions in the prison population would be possible through changes to Bail, Sentencing and Parole Acts. But it notes those changes could "meet with significant resistance".
Mr Workman told RadioLIVE that he applauds Mr Little’s changes of the justice system.
He remarked that there has been an unspoken shift in New Zealand society, where people now are less likely to believe prison is a deterrent for crimes.
“The public is starting to look more closely at the evidence than they were, say, 10 or 15 years ago.”
Listen to the full interview with Kim Workman above.
Morning Talk with Mark Sainsbury, 9am - 12pm Weekdays and streaming live on 'rova' channel 9 - available on Android and iPhone.