Quarter of prisoners on home d reoffend

NICOLA BRENNAN-TUPARA
Last updated 05:00 25/01/2013

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Nearly a quarter of all criminals serving home detention in Hamilton have re-offended over the past five years, figures show.

But the number and seriousness of the crimes they are committing is dropping steadily, with all in the last year being picked up for breaking the rules of their home detention.

Ministry of Justice district courts general manager Tony Fisher said all in the last year were for offences against judicial procedures, and of low seriousness.

The sentence of home detention became a penalty in its own right in October 2007. Previously, an offender had to apply from prison.

Since its introduction, the rate of offending in Hamilton while serving the sentence has remained around 23 per cent - except for 2009 with a peak of 32 per cent.

But last year that drastically fell, with just 26 of the 164 people (16 per cent) sentenced to HD at the Hamilton District Court offending.

Nationally the picture is quite similar, with a drop from 23 per cent in 2011 to 18 per cent last year.

The figures also show that offenders get quite restless half way through their HD sentence, with most breaches coming 56 per cent of the way through their sentence.

One former prisoner said he found it very tough getting through his sentence without any breaches.

He served HD under the pre-2007 system, meaning he went to prison for several months first first for dealing methamphetamine and cannabis, and then had to apply for HD.

"I thought it was going to be easy. But in some ways it's tougher than prison, where you know you've got no choice but to stay there. If you're at home you have all these temptations. I can see why people slip up."

HD requires that offenders remain at an approved residence at all times with close supervision by a probation officer. An electronic bracelet alerts a monitoring agency if the person leaves the property.

In some cases offenders can leave the house to attend work, training or rehabilitive programmes. Sentences range in length from 14 days to 12 months.

A sentence of HD can be imposed for any offence where the maximum penalty is imprisonment or home detention. It costs about $58 a day - much less expensive than a sentence of imprisonment, which costs about $249 per day.

Heather Mackie, operations manager of community probation for the central region, said HD definitely was a tough sentence to remain compliant with.

"You imagine for people who are particularly used to being very impulsive in their lives, it is very challenging."

But Ms Mackie said any breach was dealt with harshly and that's why she thought the rates had dropped.

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BREAKING THE RULES

Home detention re-offending rates - Hamilton District Court

2008: 27 out of 107 (25%)

2009: 43 out of 135 (32%)

2010: 28 out of 133 (21%)

2011: 32 out of 134 (24%)

2012: 26 out of 164 (16%)

- © Fairfax NZ News

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