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Government amending Corrections Act to ensure rehabilitation support access for remand prisoners

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The coalition Government has taken “the first steps” to ensure prisoners on remand are able to access rehabilitation and reintegrating support required to “turn their lives around”.

Corrections Minister Mark Mitchell said the number of people on remand has increased by 146 per cent over the past 10 years.

“With almost 45 per cent of the prison population now on remand, the Corrections system needs to adapt to support their needs so we can reduce reoffending and keep the public safe.

“That’s why, as part of this Government’s 100-day plan, we are taking steps to make it explicit in the Corrections Act 2004 that prisoners who are on remand and convicted of a crime will be provided with rehabilitation that helps address the causes of their offending,” Mitchell said.

In 1960, 3 per cent of people in prison were on remand; in 2022, 40 per cent were.

Remand is used while people are waiting for a trial or sentencing. People can either stay out of prison – remanded at large or on bail with associated conditions – or they can be remanded in custody.

A graph showing how the number of people held in custodial remand in prison has changed. Photo / Ministry of Justice
A graph showing how the number of people held in custodial remand in prison has changed. Photo / Ministry of Justice

An offender may be remanded in custody when there is a risk the defendant will offend on bail, will not appear in court, or may otherwise interfere with the process (such as via intimidating a witness).

A major concern has been that long periods spent on remand reduce opportunities for people to access rehabilitation programmes once they have been sentenced, leading to higher rates of re offending and imprisonment.

Mitchell said Government action would “strengthen the requirement for Corrections to provide all remand convicted prisoners with offence-based rehabilitation, including rehabilitation programmes targeted towards violent and sexual offenders”.

“Nearly 1400 prisoners could benefit at any one time.

“Other amendments include a clear expectation that remand-accused prisoners will be provided with reintegration and other non-offence-focused support while in prison. Non-offence-focused support includes alcohol and drug treatment and educational or behavioural skills programmes,” said Mitchell.

Corrections Minister Mark Mitchell. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Corrections Minister Mark Mitchell. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Government would ask the Justice Committee to consider this Amendment Paper alongside the Corrections Amendment Bill currently before the committee.

“We have to make sure prisoners get the treatment they need to live crime-free, and this is a major step to achieving this,” Mitchell said.

In a statement, Corrections said it had provided advice to the minister on this matter.

“We are committed to ensuring prisoners can make positive changes in their lives to reduce re-offending and keep our communities safe.”

It comes as the coalition Government has announced a raft of “tough on crime” policies critics claim will lead to higher rates of incarceration.

They include bringing back the “three strikes” law, limiting the amount of discounts judges can make when handing down sentences, axing cultural reports for offenders and banning gang patches.

Benjamin Plummer is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. He has worked for the Herald since 2022.

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