Breaking the cycle: Our drug and alcohol strategy through to 2020
Alcohol and other drug (AOD) addiction is a serious health issue that is a major factor contributing to crime and other social harm in our community. The prevalence rates for addiction issues in the prison population are much higher than the rest of the New Zealand population.1 Approximately 60% of community based offenders have an identified AOD need and 87% of prisoners have experienced an AOD problem over their lifetime. Approximately 50% of crime is committed by people under the influence of AOD.
In addition to having a harmful impact on individual health and wellbeing, AOD dependency can have a negative impact on families and wider society. Addressing an offender’s problematic AOD use through high-quality and responsive treatment can have a positive impact on the offender, their children and wider whanau, and the community.
Successfully reducing re-offending will mean better lives for offenders, fewer victims, and safer communities. Many offenders we see in prison or on community sentences have serious AOD issues and return to environments where alcohol and other drug misuse is normalised. It is easy to see why people fall into their old ways. To achieve our goal, we need to influence and change behaviours towards AOD, address misuse among the offender population, and support offenders on their journey to recovery.
This strategy sets our approach over the next few years. We aim to deliver more effective AOD programmes that provide offenders with the skills and knowledge they need to live an offence-free lifestyle, as well as promote overall health and wellbeing.
We are well placed to make a positive impact on the lives of offenders and their families. Many offenders may have no experience with AOD treatment or support. Corrections and other justice sector agencies are in a unique position to assess and treat offenders, and help them take their first step towards recovery. We need to continue to work towards removing barriers to accessing treatment and ensuring offenders feel safe and are encouraged to seek help at whatever point they enter the Corrections system.
To make meaningful change in the lives of offenders we need to work collaboratively across the justice and wider social sectors. Though responsibility for reducing crime and re-offending sits with justice sector agencies, many of the tools to address factors that contribute to criminal offending are delivered by others, such as health, education, parenting support, housing, and community development. Reductions in re-offending will lead to improvements in other areas and help us to achieve a range of our Better Public Services targets. People on the pathway to recovery may be more likely to engage in education and be in gainful employment, making them less likely to commit further crimes.
Hon Judith Collins
Minister of Corrections
1 Brinded PM, Simpson AIF, Laidlaw TM, et al. 2001. Prevalence of psychiatric disorders in New Zealand prisons: a national study. Australia and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 35: 166−73.
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