Only 5% of prisoners receive drug treatment

To put it politely, Corrections Minister Judith Collins is an accomplished spinner:

1) Incorrect figures:

She claims that two thirds of prisoners have problems with alcohol and drugs. But Ms Collins is misinformed. The figure of two thirds is the percentage of prisoners that, in 2008, had substance abuse treatment listed as part of their sentence plan – hardly a reliable source of information.

The reality is that sentence planners are not trained at assessing alcohol and drug dependence and the problem is much worse than the Minister claims.  The most recent independent research on the prevalence of alcohol and drug use problems among prisoners in New Zealand puts the figure between 84% and 89%.

2) The real figures:

Collins regularly claims that Government has doubled the availability of drug treatment in prison – from 500 to 1,000 places a year. It sounds impressive. But each year over 20,000 people spend time in prison – the vast majority with alcohol and drug problems. If 1,000 prisoners a year attend treatment, that’s less than 5% of the total. Doubling the availability of drug treatment in prison is not what it seems.

3) What it costs:

Ms Collins claims that doubling the number of prisoners in treatment targets one of the key drivers of crime – and that in 2009/10 Corrections spent $137.5 million on rehabilitation and reintegration. What she doesn’t say is that only $4.7 million is spent on drug treatment in prison.

Compare that with the $6 million being spent on new uniforms for prison officers (starting in September); or $11 million spent on cell phone blocking technology which doesn’t work; or $12 million to cover VIP transport arrangements for the World Rugby Cup, including use of 34 brand new BMWs recently purchased by government for the discounted price of $4.7 million – the same amount spent on drug treatment..


When there are over 20,000 offenders circulating through New Zealand prisons each year; when crime costs the country $11 billion a year – and most of it is alcohol and drug related; when recidivism is at an all time high – the $4.7 million spent on drug treatment in prison is pathetic. When the Government spends more on new uniforms and BMWs than on drug treatment, any claims by Judith Collins that reducing re-offending is a Government priority are part of Corrections’ campaign of misinformation.

To separate the spin from the facts, read Roger Brooking’s: Flying Blind – How the justice system perpetuates crime and the Corrections Department fails to correct.

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