This is an important question. They will go where they have always gone – back where they came from. If they came from a supportive family, they will go back there. If they came from a dysfunctional family, they will probably go back there. If they don’t have a family, they may go into one of the 200 or so beds in supported accommodation funded by Corrections – but only if they are really lucky.
Supported accommodation is generally a euphemism for half-way house. Corrections funds only one half-way house in the entire country – Salisbury Street Residential Centre in Christchurch. It has 17 beds. But these are reserved for parolees, offenders serving long term sentences. The Department also purchases a few beds in addiction treatment centres up and down the country such as Moana House in Dunedin and Odyssey House in Auckland.
Once they get out, basically they’re on their own.
These beds are also reserved for long-term prisoners. So the 10,000 short term prisoners released each year will be unlikely to access accommodation supported by Corrections. Once they get out, basically they’re on their own.
Reintegration in Canada
Compare that with Canada where 60% of federal prisoners are released into half-way houses funded by the Canadian Corrections Service. Providing accommodation for those coming out of prison is at the heart of Canada’s reintegration strategy.
In Canada, 60% prisoners are released into half-way houses funded by the Canadian Corrections Department
In New Zealand, the Corrections Department puts its resources into rehabilitation programmes in prison and pays little attention to what happens to them when they get out. To illustrate: the Department spends $150 million a year on prison rehabilitation programmes but only about $20 million on reintegration services. This is why so many prisoners re-offend on release and why 11 out of 12 of the Department’s rehabilitation programmes don’t work.
The need for more investment in reintegration
There is little doubt that the Government needs to substantially increase levels of support for ex-prisoners. We need more supervised half-way houses and more mental health support and addiction treatment for those coming out of prison. Up to 80% of prisoners have alcohol and drug problems that contribute to their offending and we need more drug courts to support offenders so they don’t end up in prison in the first place. But these are long term solutions that will require significant financial investment and will take time to implement.
The Government needs to substantially increase levels of support for ex-prisoners.
There are no long term solutions discussed in any detail on this website. This is because there is a crisis of capacity; the Government needs to cut the prison population first so they don’t have to build a new prison. Then they can use the $2.5 billion that would have been spend on that prison to fund some of these long term strategies. The three quick-fix strategies described on this site are designed to give the government six years of breathing space to figure out some effective long-term solutions and how to implement them.