In my new book, Flying Blind – How the justice system perpetuates crime and the Corrections Department fails to correct, I identify three stages in the system where intervention could occur – but generally doesn’t.
1) In Court: The first is when offenders appear in Court. Research indicates that over 80% of all offending occurs under the influence of alcohol and drugs – but judges order alcohol and drug assessments on only 5% to 10% of all those who appear in Court. Even with drink drivers, where the link with alcohol is obvious, the courts still order only a small percentage to be assessed, and even less to attend treatment.
2) In prison: The second stage is when offenders are sent to prison. The National government is in the process of doubling the availability of addiction treatment in prison so that 1,000 inmates a year can attend. But over 20,000 New Zealanders spend time incarcerated each year – most on short sentences. Doubling the availability of substance abuse treatment still allows only 5% of those in prison to attend. Flying Blind identifies numerous other obstacles that stand in the way of prisoners attending rehabilitation programmes.
3) On release from prison: The third stage is when prisoners are released. Many, if not most, prisoners come from dysfunctional families and have been subject of multiple trauma and adversity as they grew up. On release, they often require accommodation, a job and pro-social support if they are to avoid relapsing to alcohol and drugs and avoid re-offending. The Corrections Department does not prioritize the reintegration of prison inmates and provides supported accommodation for less than 1% of prisoners on release – compared with 60% in Canada where re-offending rates are much lower. Flying Blind identifies this as one of the main factors contributing to New Zealand’s high rate of recidivism.
It makes the case that the lack of rehabilitation and support provided to criminals creates a vicious cycle from which it is almost impossible for a drug or alcohol addicted offender to escape – which is why the justice system is so ineffective. The final chapter of the book concludes:
“This is not a system which delivers justice. It delivers retribution and temporary containment – but very little else. It doesn’t rehabilitate and it certainly doesn’t reintegrate. It doesn’t deliver deterrence, no matter what uninformed politicians may think, and it certainly doesn’t keep the community safe. “