Drug treatment working: Corrections

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 06/05/2014

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Treating all prisoners with drug and alcohol addictions is helping to bring down the crime rate, the Corrections Department says.

More than 50 per cent of crime was committed by people under the influence of drugs and two-thirds of prisoners had substance abuse problems, the Corrections Service national commissioner Jeremy Lightfoot said.

Because of that, addressing alcohol and other drug abuse among offenders significantly contributed towards the department's goal to reduce reoffending by 25 per cent in the next three years, he said.

"We are now over half way to achieving this target and re-offending has fallen by over 12 per cent against the June 2011 benchmark.

As a result, there were 2319 fewer offenders and 9276 fewer victims of crime each year.

"These figures are extremely encouraging and demonstrate that our communities are safer," he said.

The information was released under an official information request filed by the Taranaki Daily News.

Lightfoot said as a result of the increase, double the amount was being spent on the drug and alcohol programmes.

In 2009 nearly $2.7m was spent on drug treatment in New Zealand prisons.

By last year that had increased to $5.3m.

All prisons had recently introduced treatment programmes, he said.

"All prisoners are now screened for alcohol and drug problems when they enter prison which allows staff to make appropriate decisions on the amount of support required.

"This means that every prisoner now undergoes screening for addictions, health, mental health and education when they enter a corrections facility."

Statistics for Taranaki prisoners were not available because New Plymouth prison had closed and prisoners were sent elsewhere, Lightfoot said.

The number of specialist drug treatment units in prisons had been increased from six to nine.

In the 2013-14 financial year more than 3700 prisoners will have access to treatment for their addictions rising to 4700 next year.

That leapt from just 234 in 2007-08.

The department was unable to report on how many Taranaki prisoners had received drug and alcohol treatment since 2008.

Taranaki prisoners now go to Whanganui prison since New Plymouth Prison closed in March 2013.

While operational, the New Plymouth prison did not have a drug treatment unit and prisoners who qualified were transferred to other prisons to receive their treatment.

Meanwhile, the number of Taranaki people handed down alcohol and or drug treatment as part of their sentences had dropped, the Ministry of Justice said.

In 2009, 261 people who were in either the New Plymouth or Hawera district courts for sentencing were ordered to attend drug and alcohol programmes.

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By last year that dropped to 252.

The figures could be lower than reported through the Official Information Act because the Ministry of Justice said some of the cases could have been counted twice in multiple sentencings.

- Taranaki Daily News

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