New Zealand Corrections: well thought-out and well run.
In New Zealand, the Department of Corrections publicly states that it will work in partnership with Maori communities and government agencies to provide correctional services that will contribute to community safety and reduce re-offending.
In order to place the following in context, readers should be aware that New Zealand is a relatively small system. It has 18 prisons ranging in size from 50 to 900 inmates. As of October 2004, it housed just below 7,000, which gives the nation an incarceration rate of 175 per 100,000. Indigenous Maori make up approximately 14 percent of the New Zealand population, but comprise approximately one-half of New Zealand's prison inmates.
In its statement of purpose, the DOC states that it contributes to the government's key goals with the primary focus being to protect the public by directly working toward the achievement of the contributory outcomes of safe communities and reducing re-offending. The department works to reduce re-offending through the delivery of rehabilitative and re-integrative interventions. This also includes the provision of education, work experience and skills, so that offenders are better equipped to secure employment upon release from prison.
Phil McCarthy, general manager of the DOC Public Prisons Service, came to corrections after many years in public service. He was a policy analyst with the Treasury Department and a manager with the Ministry of Energy, State Services Commission and the Department of Justice. He has been the general manager of the Public Prisons Service since 1995. Most of what follows comes from information supplied by McCarthy during a meeting of the International Corrections and Prisons Association held in Beijing, China, in October 2004.
The New Zealand Public Prisons Service, under its current leadership, is based on the following:
* Many research studies indicate that prison sentences are unlikely to act as a deterrent to criminal offending;
* Punishment--the legitimate desire of a society to denounce and repudiate criminal offending--is a valid prison service function and requires the Public Prisons Service to deliver services in ways that are safe, secure and humane;
* The incapacitation role--protection of the community from offenders wishing to prey on it--is also a core function assisted by the development and delivery of accurate assessments of the future risk of criminal and violent offending; and
* Rehabilitation can be effective in a prison setting if regard is paid to "what works" literature and if interventions are, therefore, focused according to risk, needs and responsivity principles, and delivered with regard to the psychology of criminal conduct.
Principles of Effective Rehabilitation
According to McCarthy, there is no doubt that the past two decades have seen a Vindication of rehabilitation as a legitimate goal of modern correctional jurisdictions. He referred to more than 30 meta-analytic reviews of treatment evaluations that encompass more than 250,000 individual treatment outcome studies that consistently support that, under certain conditions, rehabilitation can be effective. McCarthy refers to the book The Psychology of Criminal Conduct by Don Andrews and James Bonta, in which three basic principles of effective practice are described.
The risk principle holds that treatment is most effective when directed at those at highest risk of re-offending. Directing intensive treatment resources at those of lower risk is likely to be ineffective at best, or even increase the probability of further recidivism.
The needs principle holds that there are certain treatment needs that are associated with further re-offending risks; and it is these areas, termed criminogenic needs, which should be the focus for intervention. These include violence propensity, skills deficits and substance abuse.
The responsivity principle holds that the delivery of treatment should match the learning styles and cultural orientation of those receiving the treatment. The mode of service delivery should be consistent with, for example, the intellectual ability and literacy levels of the treated group.
Therefore, during the past five years, the New Zealand DOC has placed considerable emphasis on developing an approach to offender management that both reflects these principles and integrates them into overall offender management. McCarthy said that the agency has sought to integrate them in two ways.
First, as a service of the DOC, the Public Prisons Service is committed to supporting departmental strategies to ensure horizontal integration across the department's delivery agencies. "That means we seek to create an approach that, from the offender's perspective, is as seamless and consistent (in terminology, philosophy, program specifications) as possible," McCarthy said. This incorporates the integration of:
* Support of judicial sentencing processes;
* Assessment, whether pre- or post-sentence;
* Interventions, including post-custodial relapse prevention support;
* Release and parole management;
* Identification and management of high-risk offenders; and
* Psychological treatment and assessment.
Second, offender management within the Public Prisons Service seeks to integrate assessment of and responses to all dimensions of an offender's risk and needs, namely:
* The need to understand and to ensure full compliance with the sentence or sentences handed down by the court;
* The security and management risks presented by the offender and, therefore, his or her security classification and institutional placement;
* Any suicidal tendency or other indication that the inmate may be at risk in the prison environment;
* Health needs, including screening for communicable diseases;
* Criminogenic needs;
* Re-integrative needs--the practical issues including accommodation, budgeting, parenting and other life skills that may adversely impact on successful integration on release into the community;
* Educational requirements, with a particular focus on significant literacy and numeracy deficits;
* Employment needs, including vocational training deficits; and
* Cultural issues--in the New Zealand context, this focuses on a Maori inmate's relationship to his or her culture.
Offender Assessment Instruments
A number of standardized assessment instruments have been developed, including the Risk of Conviction/ Risk of Imprisonment tool. McCarthy said that this was anchored in research from thousands of New Zealand criminal histories. This tool provides an accurate measurement of an offender's risk of conviction and re-imprisonment based on assessment of static factors (age of first offending, length of time between offenses, seriousness of previous offending, etc.).
In addition, the Criminogenic Needs Inventory is a tool that is used to assess criminogenic needs. The Maori culture-related needs were developed as part of the Criminogenic Needs Inventory to identify offending-related needs created by deficiencies in offenders' understanding of or relationship to their Maori culture.
Finally, the Prison Youth Vulnerability Scale for 18- and 19-year-old inmates is used to assess the level of risk created by placing older male youths in the mainstream adult prison population. All male inmates under the age of 18 are automatically placed in separate prison youth units.
Other assessment tools are:
* Inmate Employment and Education Assessment;
* Re-Integrative Needs Assessment;
* Living Needs Assessment, including religious/spiritual, family, cultural, language, dietary and other requirements;
* A quantitatively based assessment of security classification, which also allows a reasonable degree of override based on judgments by correctional managers;
* Immediate Needs Assessment; and
* Health and At-Risk Assessments.
Sentence Management Process
The people making the assessments of the offenders are correctional officers who have been selected and given six weeks of intensive training. That training covers the department's assessment instruments, application of standards and the sentence planning process.
All prison inmates are assigned a sentence management category to assist with their institutional planning and management. The categories are based on factors such as length of sentence, risk of re-offending and assessed level of motivation. The categories are derived from empirical evidence on best practice management and rehabilitation. The sentence management categories are independent of the security classification system.
Motivation and Intervention Category. Motivation and intervention category inmates are at a higher risk of recidivism. They differ only in their assessed motivation to address their criminogenic needs. For motivation category inmates, the focus is to improve their motivation for change--they are, therefore, targeted for responsivity programs. In New Zealand, the Public Prisons Service has such programs called "Straight Thinking" and "Tikanga" (Tikanga are the Maori customs and traditions that have been handed down through time). If their motivation to change sufficiently improves, then motivation category inmates will be reclassified as intervention category inmates. Intervention category inmates may also undertake the above responsivity programs if sufficient time exists; however, they are prioritized for more intensive rehabilitative programs such as the 100-hour criminogenic programs, special focus units and special treatment units.
Maintenance Category. Maintenance category inmates have been assessed as representing a low risk of re-offending. The management objective for these inmates is to minimize any contamination from higher-risk offenders and to avoid any adverse effects of imprisonment. This group is not specifically targeted for rehabilitative interventions while in prison because they represent a low risk of recidivism. All inmates with current convictions for sex offenses or murder are overridden out of the maintenance category into either the motivation or intervention categories.
Short-Serving Category. Short-serving category inmates are all those serving fewer than 13 weeks. These inmates are prioritized for interventions directed at improving re-integration and basic living skills.
Functional Support Category. Functional support category inmates are those who have been assessed as representing major behavioral issues and are judged as requiring medium- to long-term intensive support to manage their risks. Inmates in this category have an intensive level of management from a multidisciplinary team, including medical and psychiatric input. The objective for this category of inmates is to reduce the incidence of behavioral disruption and return them to the mainstream prison population.
All inmates, regardless of category, are eligible for education, employment, living skills and re-integration programs.
More to Come
As impressive as the assessment tools and process is, New Zealand recognizes that it is not enough simply to develop systems, tools and interventions. The management of the system, and most especially the staff who implement the system, are key to its success. The International article in the next issue of Corrections Compendium will address the management, implementation and staffing functions in New Zealand that use the assessment tools to operate a system based on "the wellness and well-being of the people."
Gary Hill is president of CEGA Services Inc., an international consultant in crime prevention, criminal justice and corrections, and chairman of the functional committee of the U.N. Crime Center's International Scientific and Professional Council.