In the last five financial years (2018 to 2023), 1,302 medium to high-risk individuals were released from prison on parole or a release on conditions order managed by Hastings, Napier, Flaxmere and Wairoa Community Corrections’ service centres.
In an Official Information Act (OIA) response Department of Corrections’ (DoC) national commissioner Sean Mason told BayBuzz about 15,000 people were required to be released from prison each year and DoC was committed to the “safe” reintegration of prisoners back into the community.
[For the purposes of this response, DoC interpreted medium to high-risk offenders to be those with medium-high RoC*Rol (risk of reconviction, risk of imprisonment) scores of 0.3 or greater for non-sexual offences, or an Automated Sexual Recidivism Scale-Revised (ASRS-R).]
Over the five years reported, a total of 51 individuals have been released from prison into the Hawke’s Bay community with child sex offending as their lead offence. Only 17 of those served the full term of their sentence of imprisonment before release.
47 individuals were released from prison with adult sex offending as their lead offence over the same period. Of those only 11 served the full term of their sentence of imprisonment before release.
“In most cases when a person is released from prison they can decide where to live,” Mason said.
“The majority of people released from prison prefer to return to the community they were in prior to being arrested in order to reconnect with family, employment and other supports. However, prior to release a person must have a release plan that addresses their risks and supports their rehabilitation and reintegration.”
Mason said people need to propose a release address which was assessed by Corrections staff for its suitability and approved or declined depending on the person’s specific risks.
“There are some who, due to conditions imposed by the Courts or the New Zealand Parole Board, are excluded from geographical areas and unable to return home while they are subject to a sentence or order. This may be due to the location of their offending or the proximity of their home address to any victims.”
In terms of child sex offenders (CSO) placement in the community, formal community notification typically occurred, Mason said.
“This notification is carried out on a case-by-case basis and is dependent on the individual’s sentence type and specific risk. The other formal notification process that takes place is through the Victim Notification Register (VNR), which allows registered victims to stay informed about the person who offended against them, should they wish to be kept informed.”
When deciding whether to carry out a community notification, victims were key, he said.
“Care needs to be taken that any notification does not inadvertently lead to the identification of victims and cause further distress. In making all notification decisions, we balance this risk with the benefit of providing communities with information.”
In line with legislation passed last August, those who have a history of serious sexual or violent offending and are a real risk of reoffending, but have finished their sentence and must be released, can now – under their extended supervision order (ESO) – be required to reside with their rehabilitation/reintegration programme provider.
The legislation also requires the conditions to be reviewed every two years so that ESO offenders were not managed more restrictively than necessary.
Mason said in the last two years, Corrections engaged with 48 primary, intermediate, and secondary school teachers in the Hawke’s Bay area.
The purpose of this engagement was to explain the role of Corrections in managing people in the community, such as for people who have offended against children, as well as Corrections’ notification processes.
“This level of engagement helps to inform key community members of our work, but also to provide safety messages to support communities. We also provide our details to these school principals so they can contact us if any issues arise. Approximately every two years, we also engage with local mayors and MPs.”
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