Rehabilitating Criminals: It Ain't That Easy

Greg Newbold, University of Canterbury

"Rehabilitating Criminals: It Ain't 'That Easy" asserts that New Zealand has a long history of liberalism and reiform in corrections. It was the first country in the world to develop a probation system (1886) and has located the majority of prisoners on minimum security prison farms since 1920. Today, more than half of New Zealand's prisoners are in minimum security, and only six percent are in maximum. There is a wide range of rehabilitative and treatment programs in prisons, living conditions are generally acceptable and most prisoners have their own cells. Sentences are relatively short, parole allows many prisoners to work in the community or live in half-way houses before their release, and there is a wide range of intermediate sanctions, such as community service and weekend detention, available to sentencing judges. In spite of this, recidivist levels are high, with approximately 50% of released prisoners reoffending in a criminal way within a year or so of release. Where young offienders are concerned, the figure is closer to 70 percent.

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Updated 05/20/2006