Govt wanting to improve rehab access for remand prisoners

Photo: Unsplash/Matthew Ansley
Photo: Unsplash/Matthew Ansley
The coalition government is pushing ahead with its pledge to improve access to rehab for prisoners who are awaiting trial or sentencing.

Legislation to begin that was introduced under the Labour government last year. It passed its first reading with the support of all parties, except the Greens, before being sent to select committee.

In a statement published on Sunday afternoon, Corrections Minister Mark Mitchell said the committee would be asked to consider further changes to strengthen the legislation.

"The number of people on remand has increased by 146 percent over the past 10 years," Mitchell said.

"With almost 45 percent of the prison population now on remand, the corrections system needs to adapt to support their needs so we can reduce re-offending and keep the public safe.

Mark Mitchell. Photo: RNZ/Angus Dreaver
Mark Mitchell. Photo: RNZ/Angus Dreaver
The updated legislation would make it explicit that remand prisoners who had been convicted would be provided with rehabilitation focused on the causes of their offending, Mitchell said.

"This will strengthen the requirement for Corrections to provide all remand convicted prisoners with offence-based rehabilitation, including rehabilitation programmes targeted towards violent and sexual offenders."

Mitchell said nearly 1400 prisoners could benefit at any one time.

The new legislation would also make clear that prisoners who had not yet been convicted would also be provided with support - such as alcohol and drug treatment or educational programmes.

"We have to make sure prisoners get the treatment they need to live crime-free and this is a major step to achieving this," Mitchell said.