Part 1: Introduction

Department of Corrections: Managing offenders to reduce reoffending.

In this Part, we discuss:

  • the purpose of our audit;
  • what we audited;
  • what we did not audit; and
  • how we carried out our audit.

The purpose of our audit

We carried out a performance audit to assess how well the Department of Corrections (the Department) manages offenders to reduce their likelihood of reoffending. We wanted to know whether the Department is doing the right thing, with the right offender, at the right time. For the purpose of this report, we use the term "offenders" to refer to all people managed by the Department in prisons or on community-based sentences unless we are specifically referring to prisoners.

The Department is responsible for managing more than 40,000 offenders at any one time. About 8500 are held in prisons, and about 32,000 are serving a community-based sentence or order.

The Corrections Act 2004 (the Act) sets out the purposes and principles of the corrections system. Section 5 of the Act states that the purpose of the Department is to improve public safety and contribute to the maintenance of a just society by:

  • assisting in rehabilitating offenders and their reintegration into the community by providing programmes and other interventions;
  • ensuring that the custodial and community-based sentences and orders imposed by the courts and the New Zealand Parole Board (the Parole Board) are administered in a safe, secure, humane, and effective manner;
  • providing for corrections facilities to be operated in keeping with rules under the Act that are based, among other matters, on the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners; and
  • providing information to the courts and the Parole Board to assist their decision-making.

In meeting its purpose, the Department is guided by the principles set out in section 6 of the Act. These principles include:

  • maintaining public safety;
  • considering victims' interests and providing access to restorative justice where appropriate;
  • providing access to rehabilitative and reintegrative support;
  • ensuring that offenders are treated fairly, taking into account their cultural background, ethnicity, and language; and
  • encouraging and supporting contact between offenders and their families where appropriate.

Appropriations for the Department's output expenditure for 2013/14 total $1.2 billion. Figure 1 shows the breakdown of that amount.

Figure 1
Appropriations for the Department of Corrections, 2013/14

Information services to the Judiciary and New Zealand Parole Board 61.8
Policy advice and Ministerial services 5.4
Contract management of services provided by third parties 1.6
Prison-based custodial services 753.4
Rehabilitation and reintegration 170.6
Sentences and orders in the community 206.0
Total 1,198.8

Source: The Estimates of Appropriations 2013/14: Vote Corrections.

What we audited

We looked at how well the Department manages offenders in prison and in the community to reduce reoffending. Specifically, we looked at how well the Department:

  • identifies and prioritises offenders to take part in rehabilitation and reintegration programmes;
  • meets the rehabilitation and reintegrative needs of offenders, including by providing access to appropriate programmes such as prisoner employment, alcohol and drug treatment, and cultural programmes;
  • manages offenders' transition from prison into the community; and
  • ensures that its programmes and activities to reduce reoffending are effective and efficient.

What we did not audit

We did not audit whether the Department will achieve its target of reducing reoffending by 25% by 2017. However, we did consider the early results the Department has achieved as context and evidence for our comments about how successfully the Department manages offenders to reduce reoffending.

We have not considered any aspects of corrections law or policy because doing so is outside the Auditor-General's mandate.

How we carried out our audit

To carry out our audit:

  • We interviewed staff from the Department's National Office.
  • We visited five districts in three regions. The three regions were Northern, Lower North, and Southern. The five districts were Te Taitokerau, Auckland, Manukau, Wellington, and Canterbury.
  • We visited seven prisons and interviewed staff. This included talking with three Regional Commissioners, prison managers, prison officers, case managers, psychologists, and programme facilitators.
  • We met with about 300 prisoners in individual and group situations. This included prisoners with security classifications ranging from minimum to high. The prisoners we met had committed a wide range of crimes, including violent and sexual crimes, drug offences, burglaries, fraud, and driving offences.
  • We observed case managers preparing offender plans with prisoners.
  • We observed prisoners in various rehabilitation units and programmes.
  • We visited community probation centres and interviewed staff. This included district managers, service managers, practice leaders, psychologists, and probation officers.
  • We met with about 40 offenders who were being managed in the community by community probation. The seriousness of the crimes committed by the offenders we spoke to varied. Two offenders were on extended supervision orders with 24-hour supervision for 10 years. Another was arrested for armed robbery, and others had committed domestic violence, driving, or drug offences.
  • We observed probation officers interviewing offenders to provide advice to the courts.
  • We shadowed probation officers interviewing parolees. We attended a whānau hui with an offender and his whānau, accompanied a probation officer to meet an offender on home detention, and visited a reintegration centre for high-risk offenders.
  • We observed multi-disciplinary meetings with Department staff and representatives of other entities that discussed risk management procedures for high-risk offenders who were being released.

We also looked at:

  • policy manuals and strategic documents;
  • national and international research on reducing reoffending;
  • internal and external performance reports;
  • training manuals;
  • action plans; and
  • accountability documents.
page top