by Metiria Turei
The Government has an Action Plan to reduce crime and reoffending, and it’s great they are going to have a go.
Instead of just promising to lock more people up for longer, or forever, they say they will work differently, including more closely with communities and iwi.
They have targets that may seem unrealistic — violent crime down by 20 per cent, hmmm — but hey, we’re not going to bag them for trying. The recent increase in drug and alcohol treatment for offenders is a good start. Alcohol and drug addiction is both a driver of violent crime and a leading cause of recidivism. Tackling this seriously will help to keep families and communities safer. And it is the community organisations and networks that can provide the government with the best information and help.
So what needs to happen as they pursue these goals is to engage with communities about how to make changes.
The newly formed Justice Coalition would be the perfect way to do that. It’s made up of 11 significant justice sector organisations. The coalition is a who’s who of people trying to make a difference in the justice area: Victim Support, Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Trust, Salvation Army, Restorative Justice Aotearoa, Community Law Centres of Aotearoa, New Zealand Howard League for Penal Reform Inc, Henwood Trust, National Coalition of Howard Leagues, Robson Hanan Trust (Rethinking Crime and Punishment), The National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges, and Prison Fellowship New Zealand.
The coalition represents a diverse bunch of people who know the communities they work with and have incredible networks. I’d hate to see the plan only informed by ministers or officials in their ivory towers in Wellington. Advice can be circular in an environment where nervous officials tell their bosses what they want to hear.
If government can take a holistic view, bring in those who are the experts in the community and treat families with compassion, we can make real gains in keeping families and communities safer.