Prison numbers down – but not via crime reduction

By: Todd Muller

Todd Talks
with Todd Muller
National MP

The current Labour government operates a policy to reduce the numbers of people in prison. It has succeeded in this, but not through a reduction in crime. From conversations I’ve had with constituents, it sounds like we have a reduction in charges being laid. It’s almost as if Police have been directed to employ other strategies like giving warnings, holding family meetings and offering diversion. It also seems as if the courts are granting home detention more frequently than imposing custodial sentences.

And yet there has been an increase of $139 million into the Corrections system between 2018 and 2021 – it now costs you and I $151,000 to house a prisoner per year. More of our money money is being spent for fewer prisoners and worse outcomes.

Since 2017 there has been a 32 percent increase in theft from dairies, supermarkets and liquor stores while Police have made 62 percent fewer arrests.

Police workload is growing as our mental health services struggle to cope with the increasing volume of troubled people in our community. This government has failed to retain and attract medical staff with its border closures and the prospect of better working conditions overseas for the staff we do have in our health system.

Police should not be having to carry out the role of psychiatrists and mental health nurses. They should not have been manning Covid checkpoints or MIQ facilities. They should be free to focus on fighting the crime that is growing in our community.

The other tactic that this government seems to be operating is to avoid having Police even attending reported crimes.  Perhaps the hope is that, if it takes long enough for Police to respond to a call out, the caller will simply give up and forget about the incident they were trying to report.

In the Bay of Plenty, Police response times have increased, on average, by 33 minutes to a 52 minute wait, compared to 19 minutes in 2017. It’s great that Police numbers have increased by 15 per cent – but new gang membership has increased by 38 per cent.

So this is how the government reduces prison numbers. Not very reassuring, is it?