What reports has she received on the department’s management of offenders on parole?
I have received an alarming and damning report from the Auditor-General, which identifies serious deficiencies in the management of offenders on parole. I am extremely concerned by the findings of the report, and staggered at the extent of non-compliance, especially as the audit took place after Karl Kuchenbecker’s senseless murder, when one might have expected that those responsible had learnt from failings of the past.
Did the previous Minister make any assurances regarding the management of offenders on parole?
Yes. The previous Minister of Corrections, the Hon Phil Goff, claimed that his Government had made “extensive changes” and “quickly moved to deal with deficiencies in the system”. He gave assurances that action had been taken to improve the management of high-risk parolees, that enforcement had been strengthened, and that there were new requirements for home visits. Unfortunately, these requirements were among the many identified by the Auditor-General as not having been complied with.
Can the Minister confirm that last June the Wellington Coroner, who looked into the case of the murder of Mr Kuchenbecker, stated that the then Government had moved quickly to deal with the deficiencies that had come to light, and, as a result, he had no further recommendations to make for necessary Government action.
I can confirm that assurances were given to the coroner. Unfortunately, they were not kept.
What other assurances did the previous Minister make regarding the management of offenders on parole?
After Mr Kuchenbecker’s murder, Mr Goff said: “we must learn from failings which occurred during this tragic episode.” Mr Goff gave assurances that changes had been made and lessons had been learnt. But these promises were meaningless, because Mr Goff clearly did not check that the changes were actually being complied with. I have already asked the department to confirm that compliance checks are taking place, and I will be demanding ongoing reports to confirm compliance with requirements.
Will the Minister of Corrections guarantee—given that she failed to do so when asked yesterday—that National will fund additional probation officers and prison staff to ensure that staffing keeps pace with the workload created by the increasing numbers being dealt with by the Department of Corrections, as Labour did when in last year’s Budget it funded an extra 89 probation officers, which the department had requested? Will she guarantee that? She failed to give any guarantee yesterday.
The member who asked the question will be aware that there is a thing called a Budget, and that he should wait for it, but I will say to him that it is very important that the probation service is properly resourced. He would have heard me say yesterday that I agree with every one of the recommendations made in the Auditor-General’s report. I note, however, that the Auditor-General stated that “recruiting more probation officers will not fix all the problems my staff found.” Clearly, more is needed.
What action can be taken to lift the performance of service managers in particular, to address the finding that 63 percent of the parole plans for offenders did not contain all the signatures required for the plans to be signed off?
One of the matters that I have asked the State Services Commissioner to come back to me on concerns what can be done to restore the public’s faith in the parole system. I am sure that is one of the issues that will be addressed in the reply.
Has the Minister yet received a letter of resignation from Mr Barry Matthews; if not, is she still, as she said in this House yesterday, “confident that Mr Matthews is fully aware of how seriously I view this issue.”?
I have not received such a letter. I say to the House that I am not prejudging who might, in fact, be accountable. In fact, I am saying that there may be one or more people accountable.
Does the Minister agree with Ombudsman Mel Smith that “A risk averse approach to granting parole, which lessens the chance for critical media headlines, will condemn some prisoners, who would pose little risk to the community, to longer terms in institutions and in my view the potential for rehabilitation is lessened.”; if so, what will she do to protect the interests of those low-risk prisoners?