• Nick Smith

Corrections Minister Nick Smith today opened a world first specialist unit dedicated to treating violent offenders. The new unit, based at Rimutaka Prison in Upper Hutt, is a secure prison facility which aims to reduce re-offending for inmates convicted of violent crimes.

"New Zealand has an underlying violent culture reflected in a growing number of serious convictions. If we are to reduce the levels of violence, prisons need to do more than just lock up inmates. We have to focus on rehabilitating prisoners and addressing the causes of their offending. This programme is all about defusing human timebombs whose violent behaviour presents a threat to all New Zealanders."

The unit will house 30 inmates for a period of eight months, as they move through an intensive therapy programme. The therapy will aim to change the inmates violent behaviour by identifying the background and motivational factors for violence; allowing the men to develop an understanding of the effects of violence on their victims and teaching them methods for changing how they deal with problems. The programme is a world-first in dealing specifically with violent offenders.

"These specialist programmes offer the best hope in reducing re-offending. The Kia Marama programme for sex offenders at Christchurch Prison has reduced reoffending levels by 68%. If we can achieve similar dramatic reductions in re-offending levels for violent offending, we will prevent hundreds of victims from being mugged, murdered or assaulted. The programme is also focused on breaking the cycle of violence in the home, and preventing another generation of violent offenders.

"Reducing crime needs to be tackled from both ends. More police and tougher sentencing are only part of the answer. We need to complement this with strengthening families, initiatives to reduce domestic violence and prevention programmes like this one, for serious violent offenders."