One in three criminals breach their parole and one in five Maori offenders fail to complete their community service or court order, figures published in the latest Corrections annual report show.
But Corrections says the statistics prove criminals are held accountable. Reasons for offenders not completing a sentence include reoffending, breaking the rules or having their sentence changed. Parole conditions are most frequently broken, with 38% failing to stick to the rules, or reoffending.
Canterbury University criminology professor Greg Newbold said the results were not surprising considering 81% of criminals reoffend within five years of leaving prison. “Parole conditions can be quite stringent. For example they might prevent you from associating with those close to you. They can sometimes prohibit you from having a drink or living and working in a certain place.”
About 15% of offenders fail to complete home detention, while 11% do not finish community work. “The kind of people who get community work or detention are normally the kind of people who don’t live ordered lives anyway,” Newbold said.
He said court orders had become stricter in recent years because of high-profile murders by offenders on parole. “Corrections have hair-trigger procedures in place, so it’s far easier now to breach parole. But if you’re going to make rules, you have to enforce them.”
The consequences for offenders who failed to complete their orders depended on the severity, extent and frequency of breaches. Punishments could range from a verbal warning to imprisonment. About 19% of offenders on parole were re-imprisoned.
Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar was appalled by the numbers.
“We deal with victims, if these guys are going to reoffend, that’s another victim. There are some people who are never going to mend their ways.”
McVicar said judges should give offenders only one chance.
Corrections probation services general manager Katrina Casey said 97% of offenders who breached court orders were held accountable. “I would be concerned if there were no consequences for breaches. We’re trying to make it clear that there will be consequences if they don’t comply.”
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