Government details first steps in New Zealand's criminal justice reform

"The old ways have failed us," Justice Minister Andrew Little says

Government details first steps in New Zealand's criminal justice reform

The government has released two reports detailing its first steps in reforming the criminal justice system in New Zealand.

The government is taking a new direction in the reform, committing to “doing justice differently,” Justice Minister Andrew Little said. The new reports come after the government’s vow to properly consider proposals for justice reform.

“The old ways have failed us. They have resulted in too little rehabilitation and therefore more crime, while not doing enough to support victims,” he said.

Little said that the two reports – “Turuki! Turuki!” from Te Uepū Hāpai I te Ora, and “Te Tangi o te Manawanui: Recommendations for Reform” from the chief victims’ advisor – came from “some of the most extensive community engagement over our criminal justice system ever.” He thanked Te Uepū and Dr Kim McGregor for their roles in making the latest reports, as well as the Hui Māori report, “Inaia Tonu Nei – Now is the Time”

According to Little, the government has committed to ensuring the justice-administration environment is safe and effective for all participants, including both victims and offenders.

It has also committed to a comprehensive overhaul of the system over time, ensuring that victims are treated with respect and dignity, offenders are treated more effectively to reduce offending, and making the system more responsive to community expectations of accountability and harm prevention.

Little also said that the government will immediately make the pilot Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment (AODT) courts in Auckland and Waitakere permanent. It has also committed to immediately funding a new AODT court in Hamilton. The reductions from these courts on offending are apparent, Little said. He said that within two years, AODT Court participants are 23% less likely to reoffend for any offence, 35% less likely to reoffend for a serious offence, and 25% less likely to be imprisoned because of their reoffending.

The government will also roll out other therapeutic and specialist courts over time, as well as work with Māori on decision-making to improve outcomes across the justice system.

“Transforming our criminal justice system will take time. We need to both address immediate issues with the current system and also deliver a long-term plan for changing the system,” he said.

Little said that while some programs are effective, there’s room for more improvement.

“Measures like ‘Corrections’ High Impact Innovation Program’ are making significant inroads into New Zealand’s shamefully high incarceration rates, and implementing other programs like ‘Hokai Rangi’ in Corrections, Police’s ‘Te Huringa o te Tai Māori Strategy’ and Oranga Tamariki’s ‘Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy’ are examples of how we’re already delivering to support our communities’ need,” he said. “But these reports make clear there is much more we can do to build a safer New Zealand. That work starts today.”

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