New laws will allow Police and Corrections to better ensure offenders in the community or defendants on bail are adhering to conditions not to consume alcohol or drugs, say Police Minister Paula Bennett and Corrections Minister Louise Upston.
“Harmful alcohol and drug use is a serious health issue and a major driver of crime. About half of crime is committed by people under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” Mrs Bennett says.
“This new legislation allows Police and Corrections to monitor and test offenders and people on bail with conditions imposed by judges or the Parole Board not to consume alcohol or drugs. It allows staff to target those with the highest risk of causing alcohol-related harm with more intensive testing and monitoring.”
“The main form of testing will be urine testing, and Police will use existing breath-alcohol testing technology throughout the country,” Mrs Bennett says.
Some high-risk offenders and people on bail will be fitted with alcohol detection anklets as part of their monitoring. These anklets detect alcohol in sweat and provide evidence if they have consumed alcohol against their abstinence conditions.
Corrections and Police are trialling the technology with about 50 anklets for two years in the Northern Region before it is rolled out more widely.
“The law empowers staff to get evidence about drug or alcohol consumption. Staff can then take action, encouraging offenders who have stayed sober or giving further treatment or sanctions to offenders who have breached their conditions,” Ms Upston says.
“The aim is to reduce drug and alcohol-related harm in our communities by enabling Corrections and Police to better manage offenders in the community and defendants on bail. Negative tests can provide evidence of sobriety to employers and help offenders get a job.”
“The anklets are one more tool that can be considered when offenders and bailees with the highest risk of causing alcohol-related harm are in the community. Not everyone with an abstinence condition will be suitable for the trial,” Ms Upston says.
As part of an $8.6 million package from the Justice Sector fund last year, Corrections is also providing extra support to offenders with alcohol and drug needs.
Initiatives include:A 24/7 alcohol and drug support phone line for offenders/prisoners which will be staffed by experienced registered alcohol and drug practitioners. The ‘RecoveRing’ support line goes live on 24 May 2017 16 new alcohol and drug aftercare workers have been employed in prisons across the country since July last year 13 additional residential beds in treatment facilities for offenders with significant alcohol and drug needs (available until June 2018).
“Harmful alcohol and drug use is a major factor contributing to crime in our communities. Providing extra support to offenders who are struggling with addictions is a step towards helping them make a positive change to their lives,” Ms Upston says