Jobs for ex-convicts 'recipe to curb crime'

17:00, May 25 2011

Businesses should adopt a policy of hiring convicted criminals in an attempt to curb high rates of reoffending, a crime expert says.

Australian David Brown says the world is approaching a "watershed moment" in attitudes to crime, as governments shift their focus from locking up criminals to rehabilitation.

The comments come after Deputy Prime Minister Bill English dubbed prisons "a moral and fiscal failure" and said a prison to be put up in Wiri would be the last built by the National Government.

It would instead focus on reducing reoffending and keeping young people out of the system. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of imprisonment in the world.

Mr Brown, a law professor emeritus at New South Wales University, said that in Britain, the United States and Australia there was a growing realisation that incarceration rates were not economically or socially sustainable.

Tough-on-crime policies that resulted in more people being locked up were not working.

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International research showed that increasing levels of incarceration did not lead to corresponding reductions in crime rates.

Speaking in Wellington yesterday, Mr Brown said there was growing recognition that reoffending and high imprisonment rates were not just a problem for the criminal justice system but for the whole of society.

The focus in many states in the US, as well as in Britain and Australia, was "justice reinvestment": reinvesting money saved through lower rates of incarceration in methods to reduce reoffending.

These included prison work training programmes and mental health and drug and alcohol programmes.

Business leaders could follow Singapore's example and make a point of hiring convicted criminals as unemployment was a leading factor in reoffending, he said.

The Dominion Post