Once more we are seeing big talk from the Government translating into no ideas, no plan and no money – this time it’s the Government promise to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent, National’s Justice spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“After the much vaunted first 100 days, all the Minister can say is they are still thinking about it and now they have scrapped the Justice Sector Fund from which innovative justice initiatives are funded.
“The Government is so short on cash after spending it all on tertiary students that we now know it will be taking money from the Justice Sector Fund to address basic cost pressures. In doing so it will be taking away funding that could be used for new initiatives to address the prison population and the core drivers of crime.
“The Justice Sector Fund, introduced by the previous Government, allowed underspends from all law and order agencies to be reinvested in trialling new initiatives to improve justice outcomes, many of which were targeted to Māori who have long been overrepresented in the justice system. It also encouraged ministries to use funds wisely as they were able to access savings for good new ideas.
“The Government has talked a big game about reducing the prison population but seems to have no idea how to do it. We know that by the time a person gets to prison, more often than not they’ve lived a life of crime and to break the cycle, we must try new things.
“The Justice Sector Fund enabled that. Some of the initiatives it funded include the community justice panels, alcohol and drug courts, family violence services and the Gang Intelligence Centre – all of which have helped reduce crime and reoffending. Between 2011 and 2016 total crime fell 14 per cent and the number of reoffenders dropped 26 per cent.
“National acknowledged there was still more to do, particularly for Māori which is why we set a target to reduce the Māori reoffending rate by a further 25 per cent by 2025. As well as that, in 2017 we put aside a further $10 million in the Justice Sector Fund specifically for Māori justice initiatives. That money appears to have now been taken by the new Government to manage their own budget instead of looking at how to better deliver for Māori.
“It appears the new Government has its head in the sand and is scrapping the Justice Sector Fund at the same time as it’s talking about reducing the prison population by 30 per cent.
“What exactly is the Government’s plan, short of letting violent criminals out of prison earlier and loosening up bail laws? Unfortunately these sorts of ideas are typical of the soft-on-crime Labour Party.
“Talk won’t address crime and the prison rates, action is needed,” Ms Adams says.