Part 8: Working with others to reduce reoffending

Department of Corrections: Managing offenders to reduce reoffending.

In this Part, we discuss:

  • how the Department works with other government entities to reduce reoffending; and
  • how the Department is partnering with iwi and community groups to support offenders.

Summary of our findings

The Department has been innovative in how it partners with other public entities to achieve its strategic priorities. It has established good relationships. However, without shared goals or outcomes, it has been difficult for the Department to get traction in some areas. Working effectively with others remains a challenge for all public entities. It relies on more than just establishing good relationships. Good relationships with shared goals are important for achieving results.

Working with other public entities to reduce reoffending

A challenge for every public entity is how to work effectively with other public entities. The Department is clear that it cannot reduce reoffending alone. The Department is working with many public entities with which it has "common clients" – for example, Child Youth and Family, the Police, Work and Income, the Ministry of Health, and Housing New Zealand Corporation (for social housing). It also participates in intersectoral groups such as the Northland Regional Intersectoral Forum.

The Department presents its case as "we can help you with your problems, so that it becomes our problem", rather than just asking agencies for help. We noticed that sometimes this approach works, and sometimes it does not.

Some of the Department's more successful partnerships are within the justice sector – in particular, with the Police. This partnership is at both a strategic and operational level. At a strategic level, the Justice Sector Leadership Board, which comprises the Chief Executives of the Ministry of Justice, the Police, and the Department of Corrections, has been working for several years on joint outcomes and the criminal justice pipeline. Figure 8 describes the pipeline. The Police and crime prevention are at one end of the pipeline, and the Department and sentence management are at the other end. By working together, the entities recognise that reducing reoffending is, in effect, crime prevention.

Figure 8
The criminal justice pipeline

Figure 8.

Source: Ministry of Justice.

We heard comments that the Better Public Services programme to reduce crime has helped to reinforce the Department's target. One police officer explained to us:

The 15% reduction in crime and violent crime rate by 20% means they have to address the underlying causes and work with others to stop/prevent crime. This will flow through into other targets, such as reducing reoffending.

The Ministry of Justice and the Police are both on the Reducing Reoffending Governance Committee, which oversees the reducing reoffending work programme.

At an operational level, the Department, the Police, and the Ministry of Justice set up the Joining Forces programme in November 2011 to work together more efficiently. Initiatives include the following work streams:

  • watch house and court custodial services;
  • escorts and transport;
  • court security;
  • intelligence and information-sharing;
  • safe communities;
  • combined training;
  • emergency response management;
  • electronic bail; and
  • co-location of facilities.

We saw several examples of collaboration resulting from Joining Forces. This included sharing facilities, such as the justice sector hub being built in Christchurch. Some probation sites are next to police stations and courts. The close working relationship encourages information-sharing and Intel (see paragraph 6.24). For example, probation officers often help to identify offenders of interest to the Police. Probation staff also inform the Police when high-risk offenders are about to be released from prison. Some community probation service centres have formalised information-sharing through the multi-disciplinary teams and by setting up daily or weekly meetings.

The Department has formed a partnership with Work and Income to set up Job Club. Job Club is an initiative that supports offenders nearing release with help preparing for, and finding, a job. This includes preparing a CV, interview techniques, and linking offenders to potential employers. Job Club was presented to Work and Income as a way of meeting its goal of reducing unemployment. Staff at Work and Income saw it as a "no-brainer" and that it was "crucial to partner up". In Christchurch, Work and Income staff were seconded to the Department to set up Job Club and to help manage the Department's contribution to the Christchurch rebuild. Both the Department and Work and Income staff on this project agreed that this approach worked well.

The Department's focus on education is in keeping with the education sector's Better Public Services target to boost skills and employment by:

  • increasing the proportion of 18-year-olds with NCEA Level 2 or equivalent qualification; and
  • increasing the proportion of 25- to 34-year-olds with advanced trade qualifications, diplomas, and degrees (at Level 4 or above).

The Department is also partnering with the Open Polytechnic and the Open Wānanga to provide fee-free education and training courses for community offenders. These courses focus on employment skills, financial literacy, bridging to tertiary education, and te reo Māori.

The common theme for all of these working relationships is a shared strategic priority. Having shared goals has led to successful outcomes. Other factors– for example, relationship skills and close proximity – have resulted in some good outcomes, such as being seen to be working together, avoiding duplication, and increasing the capacity of both partners.

We consider that there is an opportunity to use this approach for the transport sector's strategy for Safer Journeys. Areas of mutual concern include young drivers, high-risk (that is, dangerous and reckless) drivers, disqualified and unlicensed drivers, and repeat drink/drug drivers. The reducing reoffending programme and Safer Journeys have complementary strategic priorities.5

The Department approached the Ministry of Health about immunising children. The Department pointed out that it could help the Ministry of Health to reach a "hard-to-reach" population – for example, children who need immunisation visiting their parents in prison. Initial discussions with the Ministry of Health led to a conclusion that immunising children in prison would present significant logistical issues. A subsequent discussion with the Ministry of Health led to an offer to establish contacts with Immunisation Coordinating Committees at each district health board (DHB).

The Department needs to work with the Ministry of Health to expand the alcohol and drug treatment available to offenders in the community. In March 2012, Parliament agreed the Vote Health appropriations of $10 million a year for the Drivers of Crime package. From this package, $3.5 million was identified for increasing access to alcohol and drug treatment for community offenders. The Department worked with the Ministry of Health and with DHBs to expand the alcohol and drug treatment available in the community through the new funding. About $2 million has been allocated to six DHBs (Waitemata, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Mid-Central, Capital and Coast, and Canterbury).

The Department is working with the Ministry of Health and the six DHBs to prepare implementation plans for treatment, including monitoring, reporting, and evaluation processes. The remaining $1.5 million is currently unallocated. The decision on whether to expand treatment in the current DHB regions or whether to resource other DHBs will be informed by the progress of implementation within the currently funded DHBs.

Another challenging area for the Department is finding suitable accommodation for offenders. The Department is building a relationship with Housing New Zealand. Using the shared problems approach, the Department identified that Housing New Zealand has a problem with some people damaging their houses. The Department has offered to provide pastoral care such as drug tests and counselling to help offenders be better tenants if Housing New Zealand provides accommodation. However, providing accommodation for offenders is challenging when there is a shortage of social housing.

In one initiative, the Department has partnered with the Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority and Housing New Zealand to restore and renovate houses in the Rolleston Prison construction yard. The refurbished houses will go to Housing New Zealand to be used for social housing in Canterbury.

The Department has been innovative in how it partners with other agencies to achieve its strategic priorities. It has established good relationships. However, without a shared strategy, it has been difficult for the Department in some areas. Working effectively with others remains a challenge for all public entities. It relies on more than just establishing good relationships. Good relationships with shared goals are important for achieving results.

Partnering with iwi and community groups

As part of the reducing reoffending programme, the Department is placing more emphasis on partnering with iwi and community groups to deliver rehabilitation and reintegration services.

The Department has some initiatives to support third-party capability. It has set up a regional initiative fund for additional interventions provided by iwi and community groups. The process involves submitting an application to the Department for funding, preparing a business case, and getting it signed off by the Regional Commissioner. The proposals range from low-cost, high-volume interventions that target work and living skills training to intensive wrap-around support for high-risk offenders being released into the community.

The Pathways programme in Christchurch is an example of a programme funded through the regional initiative fund. Non-governmental organisations support offenders moving from prison into the community to find and keep paid employment. The initiative focuses on supporting offenders' own efforts to find, apply for, and sustain suitable employment, rather than the Department's traditional educational and vocational skills-based programmes. The Department commented that the programme is working well because it has outcomes-based contracts. The providers are paid more the longer an offender keeps a job.

Work and living skills

Every Friday from 11 am to noon, the Maraeroa marae in Porirua holds a one-hour work and living skills session for 20-30 offenders. The sessions start with a cup of tea and a biscuit, and focus on skills that offenders need in the community. Other organisations – such as Work and Income, the Police, the Citizens Advice Bureau, and the Ministry of Health – attend to give advice about budgeting, consumer rights, and practical matters such as getting a driver licence.
This is an example of a local solution. Porirua community probation service centre looked at what support was available for low-level offenders and came up with an idea for something new. The Department told us that the local non-governmental organisations were "incredibly supportive" because they had wanted to help but did not know how to reach this group of offenders. The non-governmental organisations have got other local providers to help. For example, the Citizens Advice Bureau came up with an idea to run cooking classes. The free classes are held at the local scout hall, and the food and tutors are provided for free.
We were told that the range of services and support available in the community has been an eye-opener for some offenders. This includes health and child care, food banks, and even the Salvation Army's Sunday dinners.

5: See the Safer Journeys website,

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