Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Corrections)
: I move,
That the Administration of Community Sentences and Orders Bill be now read a first time. I nominate that the Administration of Community Sentences and Orders Bill be referred to the Law and Order Committee. I would like to acknowledge at the outset the work of my predecessor, the Hon Judith Collins, in developing and introducing this bill. Overall, the legislation governing the administration of the corrections system is working well. However, some provisions have been identified as barriers to effectiveness and efficiency in achieving its statutory purpose. Two bills have been introduced to remove such barriers: the current bill before us, which aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the administration of sentences and orders in the community, and the Corrections Amendment Bill, which aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of prisons. It has recently received its first reading and is with the Law and Order Committee.
The Sentencing Act 2002, the Parole Act 2002, and, to a lesser extent, the Bail Act 2000 play a central role in governing the corrections system as it relates to the management of offenders serving sentences in the community and of prisoners who have been released from prison. Major reform of the Sentencing Act and the Parole Act was undertaken in 2007. Since then a number of problems have been identified in
administering the changes introduced by the reforms, particularly in relation to the administration of community sentences and orders. This bill makes minor drafting amendments to these Acts to clarify operational procedure where an Act is silent or unclear, and where its interpretation has led to unintended consequences. The bill also introduces a number of minor policy changes to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of home detention, community-based sentences, and the electronic monitoring regime.
I will briefly outline some of the more significant changes. Currently, a home detention sentence is suspended when an appeal is lodged. The bill provides instead that the sentence will continue to run, unless the appellant is granted bail. This recognises that some home detainees who appeal may pose a risk to public safety if released into the community without restrictions. Secondly, sometimes offenders who abscond from community-based sentences are not located until the sentence has ended. The bill provides that the time will cease to run on a sentence of supervision, intensive supervision, or community detention if an application is made to the court to vary or cancel that sentence because the offender is not complying with it. This will help to ensure that offenders who do not comply with their sentences will still be held to account. Thirdly, enforcement problems can arise because the boundaries of an offender’s address do not align with the boundaries of electronic monitoring equipment. Under the bill, where electronic monitoring is a release condition, or a condition of community sentence, the offender will be required to remain within an area defined by a probation officer.
Fourthly, under current law even a sentence of, say, 2 weeks’ imprisonment automatically cancels a home detention sentence. Yet in some circumstances the completion of the home detention sentence may be in the interests of the community. The bill will give the court a discretion to allow a home detention sentence to resume after a short sentence of imprisonment. Finally, administrative problems can arise if a court imposes a non-custodial sentence that is incompatible with another non-custodial sentence already being served. The bill contains provisions to prevent this. Other adjustments cover a range of matters, including eliminating gaps in extended supervision order provisions that can result in short periods when offenders are not subject to appropriate conditions.
In conclusion, the measures in this bill will contribute to public safety and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the management of offenders in the community. I commend this bill to the House.
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour)
: I want to say at the outset that Labour will be voting to send the Administration of Community Sentences and Orders Bill to the Law and Order Committee for scrutiny. It does appear, on the face of it, to be a sensible bill that will improve the way in which community sentences are administered, and I commend the Minister of Corrections for bringing a measure to the House that does have that purpose. Too often in the past, the temptation has clearly been for Ministers to bring law and order measures to this House that will not make a lot of difference to public safety but that sound good and play well in the media. I think we can be confident that this bill is not one of those.
I think it is commendable that the general policy statement to the bill recognises: “Overall, current legislation continues to provide a sound framework for the operation of the corrections system. However, certain provisions have been identified as barriers to managing offenders in the community in a manner that is safe, secure, humane, effective, and efficient. The purpose of this Bill is to remove these barriers.” If it transpires that scrutiny at the select committee confirms that the bill will do those things properly, then the Opposition will continue to give the legislation support.
But there are a number of concerns that we have in considering this first draft of the bill—for example, whether or not it does actually make changes that are sufficient and adequate to the extent that is needed for the protection of public safety, given the technological opportunities that now exist in this area in particular. I was very glad a week or two ago to visit the Māngere probation service centre and to see the work that is being done there, particularly in light of those technological opportunities, and particularly in light of the changes in the way that the Department of Corrections now administers community sentences. The department has deliberately laid out its work areas in ways that allow for and maximise cooperation between teams, so they can keep in contact with one another about the way in which different community sentences are being administered in the area for which the office is responsible. Obviously, we do not want to do anything, in legislation or otherwise, that will get in the way of doing that. We have heard the chief executive of the department in recent days talk about the need for a restructuring of the department to ensure that its different business units work more effectively together. Again, we want to make sure at the select committee—and I am pleased to see the Minister nodding—that nothing in this bill gets in the way of that aim, and indeed that the restructuring itself actually serves that purpose.
I think it is also important to remember that process is important here, and that part of the scrutiny that this bill is going to require is the extent to which it amends other legislation. The Minister observed in her first reading speech that this legislation will amend the Bail Act. I note that there is another Bail Amendment Bill, which was introduced to the House today and is in the name of another Minister, the Minister of Justice. So we have two bail amendments going through the House. One bill is at its introduction stage, and it might well go to another select committee than the one that the Minister has nominated for this bill. Although I praised the Minister earlier for bringing forward sensible reform, there is clearly an issue of internal coordination within this Government in the law and order area, and the Minister, I think, needs to hear the concern that I am expressing in this area—the temptation for her colleague to run off with another initiative, the Bail Amendment Bill, which was supposed to be a consultative exercise. There was going to be a discussion paper based on public submissions, and then only on the basis of those submissions was there going to be a bill. Well, Judith Collins has thrown process to the wind, and we have seen the unilateral introduction of a bill today that would also amend legislation that the legislation the Minister has brought in before the House today would also amend. As I say, if they go off to different select committees, what will that say about coordination within the Government over law and order policy? How can we be assured that the provisions of the Bail Act are not going to end up at sixes and sevens with one another because two different committees of the House and two different Ministers are dealing with them at once? That is not a commendable state of affairs, and the Government does need to get its house in order on that issue.
I do want to say one or two words generally about community sentences. The Department of Corrections is set, at its current rate, to become the largest Government department. We have already heard the Minister of Finance say that prisons are a moral and fiscal failure, and it is important, therefore, that the department takes an evidence-based approach as to what works and what does not in respect of the sentencing of offenders. There is plenty of evidence that community-based sentences work and are a worthwhile option to consider, particularly as an alternative to custodial sentences, where that is an appropriate thing to contemplate in the interests of public safety. There was a recent review of the sentence of home detention, and it suggested that eligibility for home detention should be based primarily on the reduction of crime, rather than the subjective judgments of politicians about certain kinds of criminals. I was very
interested to read some remarks made by the current Minister of Justice in the past about what sorts of offences it would or would not be appropriate to have offenders on home detention for.
- Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
CHARLES CHAUVEL: Before the break I was making some general comments about the efficacy of community sentences. I think it is useful for the House to note that the proportion of offenders sentenced to home detention in 2007 through to 2009 who were reconvicted in the following 12 months—the rates for each year were 21.5 percent and 23 percent, respectively—was less than half those reconvicted following a short-term prison sentence, according to the Ministry of Justice’s review of the sentence of home detention. The prison figures were 50.3 percent and 52.6 percent. What that tells the House is that in terms of combating recidivist offending, these community sentences can be up to twice as effective. Judith Collins herself has said we need to put a lot more emphasis on rehabilitation, but one of the problems we have seen in the last 4 years is that there has simply been no change in recidivism statistics. In fact, reconviction rates have gone up, which is why we saw the Salvation Army give the Government an F earlier in the year in its state of the nation report on combating recidivism.
The other reason why community sentences are important is cost. The taxpayer pays $58 a day to keep somebody on home detention, which is about a quarter of the $249 per day it costs to keep a person in prison. It is fiscally responsible to examine the widening use of home detention, rather than dismissing it as a soft-on-crime option. It is absolutely the case that provided these sentences are properly administered they are not soft options, as we can see from the figures they do give value to the taxpayer, and they are effective at reducing reoffending, which is something we should all be aiming for if we actually want a safer society in the long term.
Labour, as I have said, will support this bill going to the select committee. We will be looking carefully at it at the select committee to see that it is actually adequate and fit for purpose. There are concerns around extended supervision orders and whether they are adequate. We saw the recent case of a person on a bus in Hamilton who was subject to one of these orders, having been a sexual offender who reoffended. Clearly, there is an issue around whether we can improve the surveillance of those on extended supervision orders, and that needs to be looked at.
Also, as I said before, the fact that we have the Bail Act being amended in this legislation and also by another Minister in another bill, introduced to the House today, indicates that there is a bit of disarray and a disconnect in respect of justice and law and order policy on the National side. We will want to see some guarantees that that is being addressed. But subject to those caveats, we will be supporting the bill at this first reading.
JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki)
: I was reading the regulatory impact statement, and it makes for quite interesting reading because the Administration of Community Sentences and Orders Bill comes out of a review of the current legislative and regulatory framework. The Department of Corrections has identified some minor but worth-to-do legislative amendments that will make the day-to-day management of offenders, in all the areas that I am going to go over, more effective and more efficient.
According to the regulatory impact statement, the preferred option for the Department of Corrections is to make these minor amendments. Option one was the status quo and to do nothing. It is worth remembering that this National-led Government has passed 18 new laws and made other policy changes to not only improve public safety but also put the rights of victims to the forefront. National will continue to promote policies that hold offenders to account and that put victims at the
heart of the justice system. Generally, the current legislation is providing a sound corrections framework, but there are certain provisions that have been identified as barriers to managing offenders in the community in a manner that is safe, in a manner that is secure, and in a manner that is humane but also effective and efficient. This bill will remove those barriers.
Minor policy changes are recommended to the Sentencing Act, the Parole Act, and the Bail Act. For the Sentencing Act, there are a number of changes, which the Minister outlined fully in her speech to the House. But, just very quickly, changes to the Sentencing Act will require pre-sentence reports before an offender is sentenced to home detention or community detention. So that is strengthening that connection between the court and sentencing. It clarifies the effect on home detention of a subsequent sentence of imprisonment. So if an offender is already on home detention and subsequently is sentenced to imprisonment, it just clarifies the effect on that home detention sentence, which is a little unclear at the moment. It prevents the imposition of old custodial sentences that are inconsistent with an existing sentence or order, and it aligns electronic monitoring conditions with the range of the monitoring equipment. Once again, the legislation needs to keep up with modern technology. It clarifies when time should stop and start on community-based sentences during periods of non-compliance. If the offender goes back before the court, what happens to the community-based sentence? That needs to be clarified. It enables court registrars to issue arrest warrants in applications to review a non-custodial sentence.
The changes to the Parole Act of 2002 clarifies—once again, this is about clarifying and giving certainty to the Department of Corrections—the responsibility for preparing reports on suitability for residential restrictions. The changes to the Bail Act—and I am not sure that I share the concerns expressed by the member who spoke previously on changes to the Bail Act—that I see outlined in the bill are to prevent the imposition of bail conditions that are inconsistent with an existing sentence or order. We will have a good look at that and we will also have a good look at enabling home detention to continue, pending an appeal. The Law and Order Committee will have a close look at those and at the other changes.
As to the final financial impact, the Department of Corrections estimates that the proposal to clarify the effect of a subsequent sentence of imprisonment on home detention might require an additional $200,000 of capital funding. That will be required to update the courts’ case management systems. I think that sounds like quite a good efficiency to take, and that is something that the Law and Order Committee will be able to further review when we are doing our financial review of the Department of Corrections. The Law and Order Committee will give this bill full consideration, and I commend it to the House.
Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour—Mt Roskill)
: The previous speaker, Jacqui Dean, mentioned that there are 18 justice bills that went through under the last term of Government. That may well be the case, but one should never mistake quantity for quality. The bills came in two separate categories. The first category of bills that were passed, and the one that we got most used to, was the sort of populist bill that spoke a lot about an issue but actually did very little about it. The origin of those bills was in the National Party research unit, and the research they were based on was polling: did people feel that might be a good idea? If it looked like there might be some popular support for it and it looked like it might do something, then the bill went through. I have to say that those sorts of bills are useless. They waste our time, they create the impression with the public that something is happening when it is not happening, and they do not actually go to the core of the problem of law and order, which is about keeping the community safe.
The second form of bill is a bill that usually has it origin in the department that sponsors it, either the Ministry of Justice or the Department of Corrections, as is the case with this bill. They tend to be practical bills. They are based on research, they are based on experience, and they are based on doing something about the problem of crime in the community and actually making people safer.
I believe that this bill, the Administration of Community Sentences and Orders Bill, is largely in the second category; that is why the Labour Party will be supporting this bill through to the Law and Order Committee. I strongly suspect that we will continue to support the bill, because, having read through the bill, there are a number of practical and quite technical changes that are being made, and the select committee will, I think, operate in the way that select committees operate best. We will look at the bill objectively, we will see whether it achieves its purpose, we will listen to the submissions, we will analyse those submissions, and we will do the right thing for the country.
The goal of the legislation is to provide a sound framework within which the Department of Corrections and the corrections system can operate, and nobody could be opposed to that goal. The objective set out in the bill is to manage “offenders in the community in a way that is safe, secure, humane, effective, and efficient.”, and I think that those are proper objectives. I want to come back towards the end of my comments to the whole nature of community sentences, because I am a believer—a strong believer—that community sentences should be used in appropriate cases where there is no or very little risk to the community and in place of short-term prison sentences, which I believe achieve very little.
The Department of Corrections way back in July 2010 produced a regulatory impact statement to help inform the major policy decisions that are made in this bill, and it proposed changes to three Acts: the Bail Act 2000, the Sentencing Act 2002, and the Parole Act 2002. I have some affection for those Acts because those were Acts passed when I was Minister of Justice. They are major pieces of legislation, they shape our justice system today, and they are important pieces of legislation in terms of modernising how our system works. They were also bills that were based on a rational assessment of how our justice system was working or failing to work; they were not based simply on populist thinking that this seemed like something that might be what the electorate would like if they are worried about crime.
The great thing about those three pieces of legislation is that after a decade in operation nobody is saying that they are in any way fundamentally flawed; 10 years on, we see that we got that legislation about right, and that is quite a remarkable achievement because of the complexity of the situations that we are dealing with. They have indeed stood the test of time.
However, over time a number of minor and technical changes have been discovered as being necessary to make those pieces of legislation work better, and those minor and technical problems are identified and addressed in this bill. They will, I believe, improve the operation of home detention and community-based sentences and the electronic monitoring regimes under which offenders are managed. The technical changes are required largely to deal with operational procedures where the legislation either is silent, is unclear, or has been interpreted in ways that were not what was intended in the framing of the original legislation.
The first change is to the Bail Act. Home detention sentences under this bill will continue to run when an appeal is lodged. I think that is sensible because the person is within their own home, where they are being detained. An appeal may be lodged but you would not suspend the restrictive conditions while that appeal is being considered.
Most of the changes are to the Sentencing Act—for example, requiring pre-sentence reports before an offender is sentenced to home detention or community detention. I think that is simply a matter of common sense. When the judge is making that sentence, the judge needs to have the best information possible. It clarifies the maximum number of hours that an offender is required to serve. That is a technical matter. It clarifies the effect of a subsequent sentence of imprisonment on the sentence of home detention. At the moment if you are sentenced to imprisonment, then that brings to an end the sentence of home detention. But the sentence of imprisonment might be for only a couple of weeks, and actually what the offender requires is a longer period of supervision under restrictive requirements under home detention. I support that change.
The bill clarifies the situation where there is more than one community sentence in operation. That makes sense; it speaks for itself. It enables court registrars to issue warrants and applications to review a non-custodial sentence. It provides that time stops running when an application is made to the court to vary or cancel a sentence when the offender is unable or fails to comply with a sentence. At the moment, if you abscond and you are not serving the sentence, the clock keeps running and you get a discount on your sentence, and, really, that is not very smart. So I think that change is a good one.
In terms of electronic monitoring you have got a bit of a discrepancy. Sometimes you are sentenced to home detention in your home, but the electronic monitoring regime is not the same as the boundaries of your home, so it is important to get alignment between those two. Finally, in relation to parole and extended supervision orders, the bill clarifies responsibility for preparing reports on suitability for residential restrictions. That makes sense. It eliminates gaps in extended supervision order provisions. Most of those provisions are sensible.
When we extended home detention after the trial period that it went through, there were a lot of sceptics and critics around New Zealand who believed that simply locking up offenders in prison was the thing to do, even for short periods of time, and that that eliminated the risk to the community. I believe that those critics were very short-sighted. The Ministry of Justice did a review into the sentence of home detention and I think those findings are findings that everybody in this House should take on board.
First of all, there is dramatically less recidivism when an offender is serving a community sentence compared with a short prison sentence of pretty much the same time period. About 22 percent on community sentences were reconvicted after 12 months. If you look at the reconviction rates for people on very short-term prison sentences, that figure is twice as much: it is over 50 percent. Clearly, we want sentences that work. In relation to costs, it is about $58 a day to keep somebody under home detention; it is about $249 a day to imprison a person. So there is less recidivism and less cost, but I think the other argument is even more important. It keeps the offender who is at the lesser end of serious offending and is not of risk to the community in the workforce, maintaining his or her job, and maintaining their responsibilities in the home environment, which is something that prison interrupts. So I think that community sentences should be fostered. They are important and it is important that we get them right. I think this bill is a step in the right direction.
DAVID CLENDON (Green)
: I am pleased to take a call on this bill, the Administration of Community Sentences and Orders Bill, and I just pick up on some of the initial comments made by the previous speaker, Mr Goff. He observed that the last Parliament saw a remarkable number of justice bills going through and that, indeed, the quality did not match the quantity of those bills. So when this bill was tabled shortly before the last election, it created something of a conundrum for the Greens. Here was yet another in a long series of corrections bills that we had seen from a Government that gave us the three-strikes legislation. Having seen that it had failed miserably
everywhere around the world, we imposed a similar regime here! The Government gave us double-bunking in prisons and legislation to deny all prisoners the right to participate in the democratic process by denying them the right to vote. This is the Government that introduced a profit motive into the management of prisons—a Government apparently committed to committing extraordinary sums of money to building more prisons despite its own Minister of Finance assuring us that prisons are moral and fiscal failures.
So when we started to read this bill in that context and started to see that actually it seemed to be quite a sensible and practical piece of legislation that could achieve some good ends, we had something of a crisis of confidence—we thought we must be missing something. But closer analysis led us to believe that this is actually a piece of legislation we can support. It does have some worthwhile aims. The content of the bill—its provisions—will improve the situation in terms of the administration of community sentences. For that reason we will certainly be supporting this bill at the first reading, and with a reasonable expectation that we will support it throughout the following readings.
All the evidence is that for the great majority of offenders, community-based sentences are a better option than putting people in prison. There is a great deal of research that indicates, as a rule of thumb, that probably about 15 percent of people in prison actually need to be there, as there is nothing else that could have been done with them. For their own safety and, critically, for the safety of the public we need to have those people denied their liberty. For the other 85 percent, community-based sentences are going to deliver much better outcomes than the failed experiment of putting more people in prison for longer.
The Department of Corrections is now costing us well in excess of $1 billion per year. Some $850 million of that is spent on simply containing people, simply keeping people locked up inside concrete boxes surrounded by wire. This delivers an extremely poor return on that investment, to the extent that we are actually spending a great deal of money, essentially, to make matters worse. That is not intelligent governance. That is not sensible policy. It is not good law. We do not need to spend more money to produce better outcomes. We need an intelligent, sensible programme of justice reinvestment—spend less money to get better outcomes—and this legislation does take us a step towards that, it would seem. We need to focus on crime prevention, rehabilitation, and reintegration, which will deliver considerable economic as well as social benefits. Mr Chauvel earlier gave us some numbers about the efficacy of community-based sentences. A rule of thumb I have heard is that typically with community-based sentencing and treatment, you can spend about half as much yet double the quality of the output. Surely that is something that every Government should seek to attain.
This is an important bill. It is quite a technical bill, it amends existing legislation, and it does seek to make more effective provision for the management of community-based sentences. It is not so much complex as very detailed—quite complicated. It seeks to amend three pieces of primary legislation, of course: the Bail Act, the Sentencing Act, and the Parole Act. It makes something like 50 amendments collectively to all of those Acts. Although none of them is a particularly old piece of legislation—they date back to the early 2000s—the passage of time has demonstrated that there are gaps, failures of integration, and shortcomings in all of that legislation. In some respects provisions are contradictory or opaque. They do not give a clear steer to the judiciary or to those charged with managing community services. So it is entirely appropriate—in fact, a very good idea—to look at that legislation and make it better. The point has been made that the legislation does not really align well with some of the technologies that 10 years on are now available to us, so bringing it up to date is a good thing.
The regulatory impact statement identifies some of the issues to be addressed in the bill. I would like to comment on just one or two of them. One of the changes to the Sentencing Act will be around the matter of pre-sentencing reports—basically, assessment of suitability for home detention. I am pleased that there is going to be some light shone on that whole question. I have recently been in some dialogue with a number of people who are seeing some serious shortcomings in the reporting. Judges make sentencing decisions, decisions about whether or not home detention is an appropriate sentence, based on information the reports are giving. It is clear that the gathering of some of that information about particular sites and about particular offenders is less than it could be. We are seeing poor practice, both with Government agencies and, indeed, with private contractors. And I think this process of going through this legislation will allow us to shine some light on to the whole matter of the quality of the assessment and of the reporting upon which judges are relying to determine whether or not particular offenders are eligible for home detention.
In terms of further provisions, the matter of electronic monitoring has been brought up, and the fact that if physical boundaries and the boundaries of the technology do not align, it creates problems, and we need to deal with that. It seems perverse that individual offenders can be subject to two regimes of electronic monitoring that do not align with one another, and it is not clear which has priority. These are the sorts of issues that the passage of time has thrown up, and it is entirely appropriate that these should be dealt with to give a clear steer to those whose task it is to make sure that these community sentences do work.
I look forward to the select committee process on this bill. I think it is even more than usually important that we engage civil society. There are numbers of very well-resourced, sensible, and proactive NGOs that work in this whole area of corrections and have some very good, progressive ideas, and I think it is important that we offer them every opportunity to make submissions. As I said, this bill makes something like 50 amendments to three already reasonably complex pieces of legislation. I believe that engaging those civil society groups, those NGOs, will inform us and reassure us that we are not overlooking issues that could come back to bite us, or, more important, could come back to bite those who are affected directly by the provisions of this new legislation. I do think the select committee consideration will be particularly interesting. I have some confidence that the Law and Order Committee will be very open to hearing, and responding positively to, input from civil society, from NGOs.
So against our general practice, I am simply pleased again to say the Greens will engage with this bill. We will support it, and we look forward to the conversation that it will evince. Kia ora.
IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei)
: As usual I will not waste a lot of words on the bill, but I have to comment on the fact that this is the first time in this House that the Greens have agreed with something I am going to speak on. So I am very pleased about that. There is a first time for everything, I suppose.
This bill, the Administration of Community Sentences and Orders Bill, removes barriers to better practice in the disciplinary area of our communities, and I certainly support the bill to the next stage on the basis of that. I am also a strong believer in community-served sentences. I think that this bill will improve the processes around that, and make it easier for us to implement those in the future. I think that will play a very important role in the future of our disciplinary processes in this country as we move forward. My own community of Feilding has had a significant amount of investment in this area, and in the facilities, to ensure the successful outcome of these types of sentences. So anything that this bill does to make that system more efficient
and to allow better processes to take place around community sentencing, I think, is a great bonus for us. I am certainly in favour of it from that perspective.
The bill, as has been said, modifies a number of Acts that are not all that old in this process, but none the less some important changes to those Acts will take place. I cannot help but agree with a lot of the changes I have read about in this bill. I think it is the way forward for us in New Zealand to improve the processes we work on to improve the lot of our communities and our prisoners, and people who have, I guess, offended in some way.
I look forward to serving on the Law and Order Committee during the process of this bill. Certainly, serving on the Law and Order Committee has given me a much greater understanding of the processes that our communities and our law and order institutions go through to get the results they get. I think that in New Zealand we should be very proud of the results we are getting now around law and order and the reintroduction into our communities of prisoners and people who have offended. I think that is an aspect that this Government has taken a strong lead on in the last 3½ years, and I think this bill will progress that significantly in the future.
I want to talk briefly about this Government’s record in the field of law and order. I think it is pretty spectacular to some extent that—
Hon Simon Bridges: Did I hear you say Kris Faafoi’s got a record?
IAN McKELVIE: I did not say that at all! I really was wondering, though, whether the coat of the member for Hutt South was made in the Hutt, as usual. As I said, I want to talk briefly about this Government’s record. There has been a significant reduction in crime, and as a former mayor, as Andrew Williams is, one of the things that concerned us was when we had a reduction in crime in our area, because we inevitably got a reduction in service from the police as a result. They would take police away from us, and put them in some place where crime was increasing. But, none the less, we have reduced crime significantly in the last 3 years. We have reduced prison numbers, which I think is a pretty significant factor as well, and I hope that that continues, although I realise, as the last speaker did, that we need to contain prisoners who are a danger to both themselves and society alike. We are also improving prison conditions and we are making it easier to receive discipline in your own environment, and that is what this bill is all about. With those few words, I have no problem commending this bill to the next process. I look forward to discussing it at the Law and Order Committee. Thank you.
Le’aufa’amulia ASENATI LOLE-TAYLOR (NZ First)
: I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the Administration of Community Sentences and Orders Bill on behalf of New Zealand First. I acknowledge the effort by the Minister of Corrections to have this bill introduced to the House. It was March 2009 when an expert panel was established to work with Community Probation Services in releasing a comprehensive change programme. Three years since then, another bill is being introduced to the House in order to address what was meant to be addressed by the so-called change programme, which had been allocated huge funding through the Department of Corrections. The change programme focuses on sentence compliance, which means better targeting of time, effort, and resources according to the risks each offender presents.
There is a need to ask as to what the Minister and her staff have been targeting, given that a sex offender had been working with school students under multi-identities, and one can only hope that it was not another case like that of a former ACT MP. Furthermore, how is the security screening being processed? The change programme, led by Paula Rebstock, had six key recommendations from the expert panel. Sentence compliance will continue to be a major focus, but Community Probation Services will also concentrate on two other key areas. Those two areas were reducing the likelihood
of offenders reoffending, and minimising the risk of harm to others. The other part was about establishing the position of chief probation officer, and I hope that has been done. There is a recommendation to shift from clarification of risk to the management and reduction of risk, and to move from a highly prescriptive and procedure-based framework to one where more professional judgment is used. I suppose, in other words, that means applying common sense. It was recommended to promote clearer accountability and greater responsibility among staff, and significant gains can be made from a fundamental rethink and redesign of probation activities.
I looked at the general policy statements of this bill. The general policy statement says that certain provisions have been identified as barriers to managing offenders in the community in a manner that is safe, secure, humane, effective, and efficient. To say that current legislation provides a sound framework for operation of the corrections system is interesting, though. If current legislation was effective and sound, then we would not be debating this bill right now. I think it is astounding that the Government has taken so long to introduce a bill to address administrative issues arising from sentencing and parole reforms.
The bill considers nearly 50 legislative amendments to be made, concerning the Bail Act 2000, the Parole Act 2002, and the Sentencing Act 2002. Each amendment proposed seeks to remove certain legislative barriers involved in the administration of sentences and orders, so that clarification is reached and many governmental agencies involved improve their operations. The legislative amendments would change policies concerning home detention, community-based sentences, and electronic monitoring regimes. It is imperative to have complete transparency when it comes to community sentencing. It is alarming that with the current law in place there is room for uncertainty, which can often result in legislation interpreted in different ways, and can be ambiguous to concerning parties. Ensuring compliance with sentences and orders, and managing offenders safely and humanely, is, of course, essential. It is important, when we are dealing with offenders who are sentenced to home or community detention, to clarify every circumstance faced or proposed, including assessment of home situations, the effects of subsequent sentencing of imprisonment, and prevention of impositions of sentences with those existing. Compliance from the offender with his or her community sentence should not be waived because of electronic monitoring faults.
Responsibility for preparing reports for the Parole Board on suitability for residential restrictions requires clarification. The current allocation of responsibility to probation officers does not cover the provision of information relating to the offenders’ behaviour in prison.
Despite many meetings at all levels over a number of years between the prison service and Community Probation Services in regard to ensuring a seamless flow of information between the two agencies, very little beyond lip service has happened. I would have to say that the issues are simply around patch protection. Frankly, this is not good enough. Community Probation Services must have access to the prison service’s integrated offender management system to allow access to key personal information that covers the prisoner’s behaviour while he or she is in custody. This would include access to prison file notes, incident reports, and misconduct relating to the integrated offender management system. For years this has been a request that has been continually put off.
There will be very little in the way of fiscal or administrative impacts to allow such access. There should be no loopholes concerning the protection of our communities against potential reoffenders who have committed sexual offences, and extended supervision orders are an important prevention. Extended supervision orders conditions should apply immediately, even if the release date is on a non-release day. The
legislation concerning extending supervision orders must be clear so that parole boards have the power to impose release conditions on extended supervision orders. With the current cases faced of undetected sexual offenders working within our education sector, it is no laughing matter. Ensuring this not happening again is essential. Victims’ rights need to be reinstated, as the Parole Amendment Act 2007 has left victims with no entitlement to accessing information on the hearing or its processes. New Zealand First agrees with the extensive changes needed to allow for transparency. We will support this bill on its first reading. However, a look into the scope of accessibility of prisoner information for Community Probation Services staff is one that needs consideration. This bill will do well with the introduction of the New Zealand First short, sharp sentencing bill. I support this bill to the Law and Order Committee. Thank you.
JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany)
: I am somewhat dumbstruck. I am shocked and I am amazed because for the first time in a very long time, if ever, we have the Green Party, New Zealand First, and the Labour Party all supporting a bill, the Administration of Community Sentences and Orders Bill. I am starting to wonder whether we are actually doing the right thing with all those parties finally supporting a piece of legislation that the Government—
Hon Simon Bridges: Why are we supporting it, then?
JAMI-LEE ROSS: They actually have a majority. They do not need us to support it. They have a majority already, just about, with all that support from the parties. I am pleased to be supporting this bill on behalf of the National Party and my colleagues. I will not speak for long because it is clear that we have so much support in the House, around the Chamber, to see this bill go smoothly through to the Law and Order Committee.
This bill is about improving the justice system and the corrections system even further. We have heard already tonight that the National-led Government has passed 18 new laws in the justice sector since it was first elected. I do think it was a bit unfair of the Hon Phil Goff to discount the effort that the National-led Government has put into the law and order area. I do struggle sometimes to disagree with, and question the judgment of, someone who has been in Parliament longer than I have even been alive, but I have to say to the Hon Phil Goff that it was a little unfair of him to be questioning our strides of progress in the law and order area.
Before we came into power, crime was on the increase, the corrections system was out of control, prisons faced a critical shortage of beds, P was seriously damaging communities—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: And it’s not now?
JAMI-LEE ROSS: —and repeat violent offenders were being freed on parole. We have passed 18 new laws to help make this country safer. I do not think it is fair to discount that. We have removed parole eligibility for the worst repeat violent offenders. We have repealed the use of provocation as a partial defence for murder. We have increased the penalty for possessing a knife, from 2 years to 3 years. All of those things would probably not have been achieved had Mr Winston Peters been in this House. We have doubled drug and alcohol treatment places for prisoners. We have increased the number of prisoners who are receiving skilled work training by 1,000, as we promised at the election.
Hon Simon Bridges: How did we pass them if Rajen Prasad was here?
JAMI-LEE ROSS: I do not know. That is a question we all ask ourselves every day, Mr Bridges. This bill is about taking the next step forward. It is about simplifying and working on making the bail system and the sentencing system more administratively acceptable for the public. It is about making it easier for people in the justice system to administer the important sentencing and bail issues that they have to deal with. I am
looking forward to the select committee’s consideration of this bill. I even look forward to perhaps seeing Mr Winston Peters sitting on the select committee with us. He is so interested in the bill, given his interjections here this afternoon.
KRIS FAAFOI (Labour—Mana)
: I say to Mr Ross that maybe it is the super moon; maybe it is the super moon that has changed our opinions of the Government so much that we think we should support this piece of legislation, but it is true that this is one of those rare occasions where the moon is shining bright and a number of parties, other than ACT and National, support a piece of National legislation. So we can be forgiven if our balance is maybe a bit thrown off by the unusual tides of the super moon and the fact that we are supporting this piece of legislation.
At the risk of an interjection by the Hon Simon Bridges about my having a record, I would just like to clarify for the House that I have been in court only once and that was for my inability to pay a fine for not having lights on my bicycle in the early 1990s. So I just want to clarify that for Mr Bridges. I have been to court once, but I got away without having to pay that fine because I was only 16 or 17 years of age.
Labour does support this Administration of Community Sentences and Orders Bill. It is a relatively technical bill and it amends three Acts, as has been mentioned before. It amends the Bail Act, the Sentencing Act, and the Parole Act. There are 50ish amendments in total. As the Hon Phil Goff mentioned earlier in the debate, this bill makes these amendments to ensure that we can do away with some barriers and ensure there is more effective management of community sentences and orders. As it stands now, the three Acts that cover this area are either silent or unclear on a number of areas around community sentences or home detention orders. We need to do away with the farcical situation that Phil Goff mentioned before, whereby if someone is on home detention and then scarpers, that time when they are missing in action still counts towards their sentence. For those technical reasons we are supporting this bill.
Labour does support a corrections system that secures the public safety, and of course there are only certain types of offenders who can be eligible for a non-prison sentence. We support that position. We also support ensuring the rehabilitation of offenders. As Mr Goff mentioned in his earlier contribution, there is a much better rate of non-recidivism for those who have home detention sentences, and community sentences and orders, than for those who have short prison terms.
The barriers that are in the current legislation really impinge on Department of Corrections staff, and hopefully this bill will help the department’s staff and the judiciary to effectively deal better with offenders who are given non-custodial sentences. There has been a huge increase in the use of non-custodial sentences. I understand it is slowing down as of late, but in 2006 to the year to June, I understand there were 33,965 non-custodial community sentences handed down. In the year to June 2011 that number had increased to 63,168—a doubling of those sentencing options around non-custodial community sentences. Home detention also received a similar increase. In the year to June 2006, 1,293 home detention sentences were handed out, but in the year to June 2011 over 3,700 home detention sentences had been handed out. So this bill is an important piece of legislation in terms of the context of the increasing use of the non-custodial sentence. Hopefully the changes within this bill will ensure that in terms of the way we deal with these offenders we can be much more efficient and effective.
There is a relatively good fiscal argument as to why we should be looking to non-custodial sentences for offenders who are low risk. At the moment the taxpayer pays around about $58 per day to keep someone in home detention, and that is roughly a quarter of what it costs to keep someone in prison, the cost of which is $249 per day. So it is fiscally responsible to examine a widening of the use of home detention, rather than
dismissing it. Some see it as not being tough on crime, and certain people who are out there in the community say we should be locking people up more and more often, but they should take note of the fiscal argument as to why we should not be locking more people up.
We also need to ask the question as to why we convict and sentence people. We do it to punish them if they have transgressed against the law. We take away their freedom, and that is a relatively serious punishment. While they are either in prison or they are serving a home detention order or another order, we ask them to ponder their actions and to see the error of their ways, and hopefully they can think in the future they might modify their behaviour. We also should be dealing with any issues that they may have, whether they be within their family, or mental health issues, or behavioural issues. But I think most Kiwis would agree that when people transgress they should be punished, whether by a custodial or a non-custodial sentence.
We also want to make sure that these people do not reoffend. Recidivism is something that both this Government and Judith Collins have said we have to put a lot more emphasis on in terms of rehabilitation. But in that respect the rhetoric does not necessarily match up with the reality. Mr Goff mentioned earlier on about the great success of home detention sentences around recidivism. Between 2007 and 2008 the number of those who got home detention sentences, who were reconvicted in the next 12 months, was at 21.5 percent. For the next year it was 23 percent. But for those who were serving relatively similar short-term prison sentences in the same years, the reconviction rate was 50.3 percent and 52.6 percent in 2008 and 2009. So it shows you there that the use of home detention orders and community sentences is much more effective in terms of reducing the rates of recidivism for those who are subject to those sentences.
In terms of the rhetoric not meeting the reality, that was also picked up by the Salvation Army in its state of the nation report earlier this year. It said in its report around recidivism: “As in previous years, the rates of re-offending and re-imprisonment have remained disappointingly consistent with the reported outcomes for 2010/11, showing no discernible trend of improvement or deterioration from previous years. This constancy is shown in the data provided … Spending on prisoner … rehabilitation [only] rose marginally [around] a 1.1 percent increase”, taking inflation into account. In terms of what Judith Collins said around putting a lot more emphasis on rehabilitation, we have not seen it at that end. We think this Government should take more action in terms of using home detention. It has, as I pointed out, no statistics. It had a lot better result in terms of recidivism.
So we will support this bill because it does make some very good changes to those three Acts that I mentioned before, but we do believe that this may be another attempt by the Government to look tough on law and order. I also look forward to looking at this bill at the Law and Order Committee. I am sure it will get a thorough looking at, and I encourage people to make submissions to that Law and Order Committee, so that we can look at some of the real issues that we are dealing with around recidivism in terms of those who serve non-custodial and custodial sentences. We support this bill.
MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney)
: It is with great pleasure that I take a call on this, the Administration of Community Sentences and Orders Bill. It is clear to me that this bill will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the administration of corrections sentences and orders in the community.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What does Colin Craig say about this?
MARK MITCHELL: You know, Mr Peters, I am interested to see you down here today. You are so interested in this bill and I just wonder whether it is because it is about home detention. I am not sure, but that is the only thing I can come up with. This
is another part of our great programme of reform in which we have passed 18 new laws and made other policy changes to improve public safety—
Hon Simon Bridges: 18?
MARK MITCHELL: —and the rights of victims. That is right—18 new laws. This is one of our next steps to further strengthen sentencing, bail, and parole laws.
We promised to stay tough on criminals, and we are staying tough on criminals. We are focused on making sure the rights of victims are looked after within our justice system. Before this Government came into office in 2008, crime was on the rise, gangs were growing stronger, prisons were bursting at the seams, P was seriously damaging our communities, violent repeat offenders were being freed on parole, and our courts were clogged and congested. National is turning that round. Our comprehensive programme of reform has directly resulted in less crime, tougher sentences and parole laws, more police on the front line, a crackdown on illegal drugs, and millions of dollars seized from gangs. We have averted the prison crowding crisis, as well.
Generally, the current legislation is providing a sound corrections framework. However, in our focus on improvement, certain provisions have been identified as barriers to managing offenders in the community in a manner that is safe, secure, humane, effective—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Iraq was never like this.
MARK MITCHELL: —and efficient. We do want people, Mr Peters, who are under home detention to be treated humanely and to feel they are secure, and we want the public to be safe. The bill will remove those barriers. It is with great pleasure that I stand in support of this bill, and I look forward to its arrival at the Law and Order Committee. Thank you.
RINO TIRIKATENE (Labour—Te Tai Tonga)
: It gives me great pleasure to—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Is this a split call?
Kris Faafoi: Yes, it is.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you.
RINO TIRIKATENE: —speak at this, the first reading of the Administration of Community Sentences and Orders Bill. This is going to be a very short call. I think the member who has just spoken, Mark Mitchell, definitely has been moonstruck, because it was very clear that crime was on the decline before this Government instigated its whole suite of 18 sentencing-related bills. But in terms of this, the first reading, Labour supports having a corrections system that secures public safety and ensures rehabilitation. This bill is a step in the right direction. Community-based sentences are an initiative that should be fostered, and we have long been advocating for that.
This harkens back to many years ago, when we look at what is the purpose of sentencing. Is it there to punish the offender? Is it there to rehabilitate the offender? Is it there to deter the offender, or to deter others who might actually see that someone is locked away or is facing a stiff sentence? Or is it there to look at it from the point of view of the victim and, therefore, we need to be punitive to compensate for the harm that has been inflicted on a victim of the crime?
I do commend the bill for actually looking at this from the point of view of rehabilitation and also of the reduction in recidivism. It also is fiscally responsible, as well, in terms of minimising the costs through greater administration of community sentences. This is a very technical bill. It covers a suite of amendments to around three other Acts, and I am sure that the Law and Order Committee will give it proper consideration when it gets referred there. I would just like to wrap that up and say that Labour supports this bill’s referral to the select committee. Kia ora.
JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Kia ora e te Whare. As the Green Party spokesperson on justice, I am very pleased to rise to follow my
distinguished colleague David Clendon to speak on the first reading of the Administration of Community Sentences and Orders Bill. I am very pleased to say, as Mr Clendon also noted in his first speech, that the Green Party will be supporting this bill’s referral to a select committee.
The amendments in this bill are largely minor policy changes that will ensure community sentences are adequately implemented. The Green Party places a high emphasis on the role of community sentences in achieving a fair and sustainable Aotearoa. Prisons really are a sign of failure in society—I believe even the Minister of Finance has said they are a moral and fiscal failure—and they are self-perpetuating. Prisons as they currently exist in this country are academies of hard crime. Non-violent offenders, whenever possible, should not be sent to prison where they will be further alienated from society, will be exposed to violence, and will network with other, more hardened criminals. I would tautoko what my colleague Charles Chauvel and the Hon Phil Goff said earlier tonight. They very rightly pointed out that the Ministry of Justice review of home detention has conclusively shown that community sentences are significantly more effective at reducing recidivism than prison sentences and at a fraction of the cost. Justice is more than just locking up criminals and doing away with their rights. It is about making our communities safer and rehabilitating offenders.
I noticed that Mr McKelvie and Mr Ross noted that it is very rare that the Green Party can be enthusiastic about a National Government justice bill. Already this year I have spoken on a number of bills—not the least of which was the Corrections Amendment Bill—from this Government that seeks to undermine the basic human rights of prisoners, and I think that must be because the National Government and the ACT Party have a very narrow view of human consciousness, willpower, and choice. In fact, their view is not backed up by the latest in human psychology. What I hear from the Government side of the House is usually a desire to exercise vengeance on those who have been convicted of transgressing the law. That is punishment for the sake of punishment, and it is incredibly costly. It costs significantly more. It is a very narrow view and it is incorrect to hold that an individual is always entirely and solely responsible for the crime they have committed. There are complex factors at play. We need to recognise that all of us make mistakes, and that many of us, if not all, are capable of learning from our mistakes and changing our behaviour.
So our approach to justice is more pragmatic and more fiscally responsible than the Government’s. It asks how we can best minimise the harm to society that comes from transgression of the law, and how we can prevent it from happening again. It is not usually by locking non-violent offenders in a traumatic, violent, and alienating prison and taking away their rights, but through factors like restorative justice, which puts victims at the centre of the process. I am hopeful that this bill could result in a more effective use of community sentences, and help us see a true reduction in crime rates at a much lower cost, and a more just and fair Aotearoa New Zealand. Kia ora.
MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National)
: I am very pleased to take the last call in the first reading on this very important bill, the Administration of Community Sentences and Orders Bill. For the benefit of less experienced colleagues in the House, I think it is fair to say that it is not that unusual that peace breaks out around much of the Government legislation. Indeed, there are many times when the Greens will support the Government on certain bits of legislation, and, indeed, New Zealand First, although it is extremely hard to tell sometimes, certainly from those members’ speeches.
We have heard some really interesting discourse, though, throughout this first reading debate. I want to touch on issues that were raised by both Messrs Chauvel and Goff, at least in my listening, and then by Ms Genter right at the end here, about this apparent causation with the correlation between sentencing and reoffending. Mr Goff, I
think, used the following statistics, and I trust that they are correct: 22 percent of offenders on community sentences reoffend, and 50 percent of offenders on short prison sentences reoffend. The inference then is that the shorter the sentence, the less the likelihood of the reoffending, and he said: “We need to use sentences that work”.
Hon Simon Bridges: No, it’s because there’s more serious offending.
MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Well, that is absolutely right, Mr Bridges. What we are actually talking about is not a scientific study, where the scale of the offending is equal in each case. It is actually an insult to the justice system to suggest that, for the same level of offending, some will get community sentences and some will get prison sentences.
Charles Chauvel: Now I understand. It’s clear now.
MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Well, that member may be better off going and speaking to that inexperienced member, Mr Goff, because frankly it is absolutely spurious to suggest that less is better, automatically, when it comes to sentencing, because that is what we have heard in some of the contributions tonight. The simple fact is: the greater the level of offending, the greater the sentence. The very important responsibility that this House has, and then the judiciary, is to ensure that the punishment fits the crime, and that those three principles—four, actually, if you count the deterrent factor that Mr Tirikatene mentioned—are actually achieved.
So I do wonder what a community sentence would be given for, and members on the other side might be interested in this, perhaps. Theft, for example, might warrant a community sentence. Perhaps receiving stolen property and passing it on when that authorisation has not been granted, I do not know, or maybe assault or fighting in a public place where diversion clearly has not worked with the particular individual. I think there are certain members on the other side who need to read this bill very, very carefully and take some heed, because there is a degree of recidivism in some offenders, where community sentences simply will not be appropriate again in the future.
I support this bill.
referred to the Law and Order Committee.