Is it time to change New Zealand's justice system?

The AM Show 10/06/2019

A new report has revealed most people working within the justice system think it is ineffective. 

The Safe and Effective Advisory Group undertook an independent survey of thousands of victims, prisoners and community services. 

Group Chair Chester Borrows says the system is withholding everything that would fix prisoners' problems, and everyone involved in the system is unhappy.

"[The overarching theme is] complete frustration and desperation - no one in the justice system is happy," he told The AM Show on Monday.

He says the system needs a complete overwrite, and a much better focus on rehabilitation.

These people are ours to deal with.

"You work with them as soon as you possibly can - you don't do something like wait until they've done four years of a six-year sentence before you try and fix anything."

Borrows says everyone is getting kicked around by the system.

You need to stop treating people like crap.

"Half the crime is committed on and by the same 4 percent of people,"

"How you change it is by treating people humanely, both victims and offenders," said Borrows.

This tough on crime stuff is bullshit and it's never worked anywhere in the world.

In order to enact meaningful change in the justice system. Borrows is calling for better rehabilitation of prisoners.

"We don't do a whole lot of really valuable rehabilitation in prison. You've got people there who their main issue in mental health, and maybe they should have some other place."

Borrows says the response to the report will fuel change for the future.

"You can't flick a switch and change it overnight but you can [enact change] if you get everyone moving in the same direction," he said.

This is one of the biggest problems in the justice system.

"There's no central person or entity that has all those difference portfolios of injustice, Oranga Tamariki, Ministry of Justice, corrections, police.

"If we keep going how we're going with no changes we'll have a prison population of 20,000."

Borrows call for change is supported by victims advocate groups, who say the treatment of victims in the justice system is horrendous

"What we hope from here is there will be a roadmap for the ministry to have a work plan but it needs to be urgent because it's literally dealing with people's lives," said victims advocate Ruth Money.

"These are things survivors have been suffering through for years and years and years."

We welcome anything that would change the dialogue on that.

Minister of Justice Andrew Little says he welcomes the report.

"This report follows comprehensive engagement with the community and shows New Zealanders want to see less offending, less re-offending and enduring transformation in the justice system," said Little in a statement on Sunday.

"The overwhelming sense is that we can make change for the better and deliver safer and more effective justice for all New Zealanders."

Little says The Safe and Effective Advisory Group is now working with the Government to develop reform options to contribute to a safer and more effective justice system.

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Vita Molyneux