You are here: Home Publications Previous publications 1998 THE USE OF IMPRISONMENT IN NEW ZEALAND PROFILE OF NEW ZEALAND PRISON POPULATION AND TRENDS

PROFILE OF NEW ZEALAND PRISON POPULATION AND TRENDS

Growth of the Prison Population
The Custodial Remand Population
The Criminal Histories of Sentenced Inmates
The Ethnicity of Sentenced Inmates
Changes in the Composition of the Prison Population
The Effect of Sentence Length
The Seriousness of Offending
The Effect of Release Mechanisms ("time served")
The Effect of Suspended Sentences
The Effect of Combined Sentences
The Forecast Population

Growth of the Prison Population

New Zealand's prison population (footnote 32) increased only gradually over the period 1962 to 1986. The increase appears to have reflected the county's rapidly growing total population in the key age group represented in prison (young males), with the imprisonment rate per population of males aged 15 to 29 being very stable in that period. There has, however, been a rapid escalation in the prison population since 1986. The imprisonment rate per 100,000 of the total population increased by 46% in the decade 1987 to 1996. There was an increase of 26% in the number of cases resulting in a prison sentence per annum over that period and the average prison population reached 4735, including remand inmates, in 1996 (an increase of 58% in ten years).(footnote 33)

Figure 1

Total prison population, 1962 to 1996

fig_1.gif

Over the last decade the overall number of convictions in New Zealand courts has not increased significantly (footnote 34) and the proportion of offenders receiving imprisonment has not altered markedly. The increase in the prison population has resulted principally from a significant increase in the number of convictions for violent and other serious offences, particularly at the more serious end of the spectrum. As a consequence, sentences have been getting longer on average and this, combined with changes in parole provisions for offenders sentenced to life imprisonment or preventive detention and for serious violent offenders, means that longer periods are being spent in prison.

Figure 2

Average annual sentenced prison population, number of receptions each year and average imposed sentence length, 1986 to 1996

fig_2.gif

The percentage of all cases prosecuted involving imprisonable offences that resulted in a prison sentence increased from 7.4% in 1986 to 8.6% in 1993. It declined to 7.4% in 1995 and then increased again to 8% in 1996. The increase up to 1993 may reflect the increasing seriousness of cases dealt with by the courts. (footnote 35) (Over that entire period the average seriousness score of cases prosecuted in court increased by 68%. The average seriousness of non-traffic cases increased by 41%. (footnote 36) ) The small decrease from 1993 is at least partly due to the introduction of suspended prison sentences as a substitute for sentences of imprisonment between 6 months and 2 years.

The only decline in the prison population over the period since 1986 occurred in 1994 and resulted from the introduction of the Criminal Justice Amendment Act 1993 which took effect from 1 September 1993. This Act changed the minimum period that must be served by inmates from one-half to one-third of the nominal sentence for people sentenced to more than one year's imprisonment who were not serious violent offenders. This change in parole eligibility brought the average proportion of the sentence served by this group of sentenced inmates down from 57% to 44%. (footnote 37) When the new legislation came into force, the one-third parole provision was also applied to existing inmates so as not to disadvantage them. This resulted in a large number of inmates being released in the latter part of 1993. The use of suspended sentences also probably contributed to the fall in 1994 (although it appears that the activation of such sentences has contributed to the post 1995 increase).

The Custodial Remand Population

There has also been a significant increase (48%) between 1987 and 1996 in the average daily number of people in custody on remand. Throughout that period remand prisoners have consistently made up between 10% and 13% of total inmate numbers.(footnote 38)  In other words, trends in remand inmates have been mirroring trends in the sentenced population. This is illustrated in Figure 3 below.

Figure 3

Annual average daily prison inmate numbers 1987 to 1996

fig_3.gif

The Criminal Histories of Sentenced Inmates

Another aspect of the profile of the prison population is the criminal history records of the sentenced inmates. The 1995 prison census data showed that offenders with more than 10 previous convictions made up 57% of the prison population, while only 14% had no previous conviction. (footnote 39)  Property offenders had the highest mean number of previous convictions (40), compared to 29 for offenders against justice, 28 each for traffic offenders and offenders against good order, 19 for violent offenders and 17 for drug offenders. 507 property offenders (59.4%) had more than 20 previous convictions and within that group 217 offenders (25.4% of all property offenders) had more than 50 previous convictions. This compares to 10% of violent offenders having a record of more than 50 convictions. Such histories go a long way towards explaining why property offenders end up in prison despite a presumption against imprisoning them. 16% of traffic offenders in prison had more than 50 previous convictions. (footnote 40)

Table 1

Number of previous convictions for sentenced inmates in different offence groups (percentages) as at 1995 census


0

1-5

6-10

11-20

21-50

51+

Total

Violent

18.1

20.4

12.6

16.3

22.5

10.2

100.0

Other against person*

33.6

18.2

13.6

13.6

15.5

5.5

100.0

Property

5.6

7.3

9.6

18.1

34.0

25.4

100.0

Drugs

13.9

21.5

17.5

17.9

23.1

6.0

100.0

Against justice**

6.2

7.7

15.4

32.3

23.1

15.4

100.0

Good order***

0.0

20.0

14.3

22.9

28.6

14.3

100.0

Traffic

3.6

10.8

14.4

20.2

35.1

16.0

100.0

Miscellaneous

3.2

19.4

9.7

25.8

29.0

12.9

100.0

* These are mainly offences of obstructing or resisting police officers or other officials, a number of sexual offences, rioting, various firearm offences, and threatening and intimidation offences.

** Offences that are mostly the result of a breach of a sentence, a failure to comply with bail conditions, or related to court procedure.

***These include disorderly behaviour, offensive language, carrying offensive weapons, trespassing, and unlawful assembly.

The Ethnicity of Sentenced Inmates

In New Zealand, ethnicity is an important component of any analysis of the prison population. Māori inmates made up an estimated 45% of the male sentenced population in the 1995 prison census.  (footnote 41) In comparison, Māori make up 10% of the male population of New Zealand aged 15 or over, or 14% of the male population in the key 15-39 age group. The proportion of male inmates accounted for by Māori offenders does not appear to have changed greatly since the first prison census in 1987, when 48% of the prison population were Māori.  (footnote 42) However, the comparison is not fully reliable, as a different method was used to identify ethnicity in 1987 than in 1995.

Reception rates for Māori are much higher than for non-Māori for all offence groups and ages. In 1997 the overall reception rate for Māori males was 8 times greater than for non-Māori. (footnote 43)  Part of the difference between Māori and non-Māori is accounted for by the younger age distribution of the Māori population, as young people in general are more likely to be offenders. (footnote 44) However, the high percentage of Māori in prison also reflects higher offending rates (measured by the rate of prosecutions per head of population) and a greater number of previous convictions on average compared to other ethnic groups, and a greater average seriousness of offending compared to other ethnic groups with the exception of Pacific peoples. (footnote 45)

In respect of female sentenced inmates in 1995, 49% identified themselves as Māori only.  (footnote 46)

Changes in the Composition of the Prison Population

The key trends in the composition of the prison population are

  • the increasing proportion of violent offenders;
  • the lengthening of the average period of detention, particularly for violent and other serious offenders (this being a combination of the longer sentences being imposed, mainly because those being sent to prison are those committing more serious offences on average, and the proportions of sentences that have to be served);
  • the increasing age of inmates (from 29.3% being 30 years or over in 1987 to 45.4% being in that age group in 1995).  (footnote 47)

These factors are to some extent interrelated. A decline in property offending cases resulting in imprisonment and an increase in violent offending cases leading to imprisonment will both lead to an older prison population and an increase in average sentence length. This is because property offenders are younger on average, and receive shorter sentences on average, than violent offenders.

Changes in the composition of the prison population between 1987 and 1995 are shown in Table 2. Violent offenders made up 43.8% of the male sentenced prison population in 1987 and 59.5% of that population (2369 inmates) in 1995 (an increase of 36%). Property offenders declined from 29.4% of that population to 19.9%.   (footnote 48) The number of cases involving violent offences resulting in a custodial sentence increased from 1,588 in 1987 to 2,281 in 1996, although the proportion of cases involving violent offences which resulted in a custodial sentence has been lower in the years 1994 to 1996 (19.6%, 19.2%, and 20.2%) compared to earlier in the decade when the figure was around one quarter.  (footnote 49) The drop is mainly due to two factors. The number of less serious violent offences grew more rapidly in the 1990s than the number of more serious violent offences. In particular, domestic violence cases reported to the police increased greatly due to changes in policies regarding prosecution of these cases. Some violent offenders having their prison sentences suspended after 1993 is also likely to have contributed.

Table 2

Changes in the composition of the male sentenced prison population by offence type between the 1987 and 1995 censuses (percentages) (footnote 50)


1987

1989

1991

1993

1995

% change

Violent

43.8

52.2

51.4

60.6

59.5

36%

Property

29.4

23.7

23.5

18.9

19.9

-32%

Drugs

8.6

8.1

7.3

6.0

5.8

-33%

Traffic

8.3

7.1

8.9

8.5

8.8

6%

Other

9.9

8.9

8.9

6.0

6.0

-39%

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 4

Changes in the male sentenced population by offence type between 1987 and 1995

fig_4.gif

In 1995 five offence groups accounted for 70% of the total prison population: sexual offences (25%), robbery (13%), assault (12%), burglary (11%) and homicide (8%). (footnote 51)

The most common violent offences for male sentenced inmates were rape (21% of violent male sentenced inmates), aggravated robbery (20%), unlawful sexual connection (12%) and injuring or wounding (11%). Those four offence categories accounted for the major offence of 38% of all male sentenced inmates.(footnote 52)

Traffic offences and offences involving drugs are the most significant categories after violent offences and property offences in terms of the major offence of sentenced inmates. Offences involving drugs (the major offence of 6% of sentenced inmates) are mostly the result of dealing in drugs (mainly cannabis). (footnote 53)

The Effect of Sentence Length

Although New Zealand is making greater use of imprisonment in the sense that we are sentencing more people to prison (8.0% of cases involving imprisonable offences resulting in a custodial sentence in 1996 compared to 7.4% in 1986 (footnote 54) ), a more important factor driving the prison population is that there has been an 89% increase in the proportion of the prison population serving sentences of 5 or more years in the period 1987 to 1995 (from 19.5% to 36.9%).

Table 3

Changes in the composition of the male sentenced prison population by sentence length between the 1987 and 1995 censuses (footnote 55)


1987 (%)

1989 (%)

1991 (%)

1993 (%)

1995 (%)

% change

< 1 year

32.7

25.4

25.8

25.2

17.9

-45%

1 to <2 years

20.7

20.0

20.2

16.4

22.1

7%

2 to <3 years

11.8

13.3

12.2

10.9

11.0

-7%

3 to <5 years

15.4

18.2

17.6

16.1

12.2

-21%

5+ years*

19.5

23.2

24.3

31.4

36.9

89%

* Includes life and preventive detention

Figure 5

Changes in the male sentenced prison population by sentence length between 1987 and 1995

fig_5.gif

*Includes life and preventive detention

Those who are going to prison are receiving longer sentences or staying longer in prison. In 1987 2.1% of custodial sentences imposed were for longer than 5 years' imprisonment compared to 3.1% in 1996. In that period the average custodial sentence, excluding sentences of life imprisonment, increased from 9.5 months to 11.7 months, although there was little change in the years 1994 to 1996. The total number of corrective training sentences imposed has decreased significantly over the decade (from 841 in 1987 to 561 in 1996). Such sentences represented 12% of the custodial sentences imposed in 1987, but only 6% of custodial sentences imposed in 1996. (footnote 56) This is partly due to a decrease in the imprisonment of young offenders generally. Corrective training has decreased from 44% to 34% of custodial sentences for offenders aged less than 20 years. (footnote 57)

Violent offenders who were imprisoned in 1996 received custodial sentences which were 5 months longer, on average, than violent offenders who were imprisoned in 1987 (the average increasing from 20 to 24.7 months). The average sentence imposed for rape increased significantly from 73.1 months to 87.8 months (7 years 4 months). (There was an increase in the maximum sentence from 14 to 20 years imprisonment for both rape and unlawful sexual connection in 1993). The average sentence for attempted sexual violation (for which the maximum sentence is 10 years imprisonment) increased from 34.2 months to 41.4 months. (footnote 58)

In 1995 sentences of less than 12 months accounted for 66% of admissions to custody but they accounted for only 18% of the prison population in the 1995 census. In 1987 they accounted for 74% of admissions and 33% of the prison population. (footnote 59)

The Seriousness of Offending

The substantial increase in the average length of prison sentences can be partly explained by the increasing seriousness of offences. The average seriousness score (footnote 60) of all cases involving imprisonable offences coming through the courts increased by 30% between 1986 and 1996, while there was an increase in the average length of sentence imposed of 45%. (footnote 61)

Prison has increasingly been restricted to the more serious offences, and for the most serious offence types penalties have increased. Four general patterns emerged over the period 1984-1996: (footnote 62)

  1. For very serious offences (e.g. sexual offences, robbery, kidnapping, and driving causing death or injury) there have been large increases in the average sentence lengths imposed with little change in imprisonment rates, suggesting that these offences are being dealt with more severely and/or there has been an increase in the seriousness within the offence type. For sexual violation this corresponds to an increase in the maximum penalty from 14 to 20 years' imprisonment in 1993.
  2. For other fairly serious offences (e.g. assault causing injury, burglary, arson, cannabis dealing) there have been more modest increases in sentence lengths.
  3. For less serious offences (e.g. less serious violent offences such as assault, property offences except for burglary and arson, driving while disqualified, and many offences against justice such as breach of periodic detention) there have been decreases in imprisonment rates, but increases in sentence lengths, suggesting that only the more serious offences are being imprisoned within these offence groups. This finding accords with the changes introduced in the Criminal Justice Act 1985, which directed that imprisonment should not be used for property offences except in special circumstances. The introduction of suspended sentences is also likely to have had an impact on this group of offenders.
  4. For some offences (e.g. many drug offences other than cannabis dealing) there has been a trend to lower imprisonment rates and shorter sentence lengths. (footnote 63)

Table 4

Changes in the imprisonment rate and the average imposed sentence length between 1984-86 and 1994-96, for selected offences (footnote 64)

Offence type

Imprisonment rate(1)

Average imposed sentence length (months)
 

1984-86

1994-96

1984-86

1994-96

Homicide

89.0

91.0

*

*

Kidnap/abduct

65.8

71.8

29.5

38.4

Rape

97.4

94.4

53.9

81.1

Att.sexual violation

90.9

88.7

29.2

39.9

Indecent assault

37.5

40.3

15.2

18.2

Aggravated robbery

78.3

75.6

29.7

40.2

Robbery

59.7

54.3

10.6

16.7

Injure/wound

68.8

63.1

19.7

24.7

Aggravated assault

46.7

32.4

8.6

10.0

Male assaults female

16.7

12.0

5.5

6.3

Other assault

10.7

5.7

3.3

3.8

Threat to kill/GBH

31.8

18.3

10.3

8.3

Incest

82.4

78.1

25.4

46.8

Other sexual

30.9

47.4

16.8

27.0

Resist/obstruct

4.5

2.4

1.9

1.4

Threats/intimidation

5.1

6.1

3.1

4.4

Burglary

27.5

31.3

8.0

10.8

Theft

5.0

4.8

5.6

5.4

Receiving

9.7

8.7

6.1

6.6

Conversion

27.6

21.3

6.1

6.6

Fraud

12.0

11.1

7.8

8.9

Arson

43.2

45.0

15.1

21.2

Wilful damage

2.5

2.0

3.0

3.8

Use cannabis

2.7

2.0

2.0

1.5

Deal cannabis

11.2

13.0

8.9

12.8

Use other drugs

6.8

4.9

2.7

3.4

Deal other drugs

65.4

47.7

35.7

31.3

Breach PD

33.3

17.3

1.6

1.8

Escape custody

67.7

42.6

3.2

4.5

Obstruct justice

16.3

27.1

8.9

9.8

Riot/assembly

39.8

39.0

6.5

6.2

Possess weapon

13.9

9.2

4.1

5.0

Drive causing death

18.8

18.0

9.7

16.8

Drive causing injury

3.4

5.8

5.0

10.5

Drink driving

2.6

2.3

1.8

2.0

Drive while disqualified

17.0

15.7

5.0

5.7

(1) The imprisonment rate here is the percentage of the total cases convicted which result in a prison sentence. Offences were excluded if they were newly introduced within the last decade or if the numbers imprisoned were too small for analysis.

*Average not given because includes indeterminate sentences of life imprisonment for murder.

The Effect of Release Mechanisms ("time served") (footnote 65)

The prison population is influenced both by the length of custodial sentences imposed by the court and the proportions of sentences that are actually served. This second factor is a product of the legislation regarding parole and early release (see section on legislation) and the way the legislation is implemented by the parole board and district prisons boards.

Table 5

Estimated average proportion of imposed sentences served, 1987 to 1996


1987

(%)

1988

(%)

1989

(%)

1990

(%)

1991

(%)

1992

(%)

1993

(%)

1994

(%)

1995

(%)

1996

(%)

Life imprisonment

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

Preventive detention

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

Serious violent

60

67

67

67

67

67

67

67

67

67

More than a year**

57

57

57

57

57

57

52

44

44

44

One year or less

50

50

50

50

50

50

50

50

50

50

Corrective training

67

67

67

67

67

67

67

67

67

67

* Cannot be given because the imposed sentence is indeterminate and following changes to parole legislation in 1987 and 1993 it is too early to estimate the served sentence with any reliability

**Figures indicated in table are average estimates. See Spier, Conviction and Sentencing of Offenders in New Zealand: 1985 to 1994, Ministry of Justice, 1995, p132.

The drop after 1992 in the average proportion of their sentences served by those sentenced to more than one year's imprisonment who were not serious violent offenders is due to the change in the parole provisions during 1993 which made that group eligible for parole after serving one-third of the sentence imposed. Previously, these people would not have been eligible until they had served half of the sentence imposed. When the new legislation came into force on 1 September 1993, the one-third provision was applied immediately to existing inmates.

Given recent parole changes, the disparity across offence groups between sentence lengths imposed and sentence served is not as great as one might imagine. Violent offenders serve the greatest proportion of their sentence, at 59% on average in 1996. Other offence groups all serve between 45% and 50% of their imposed sentence on average.

Figure 6

Sentence lengths imposed and estimated time served, 1996

fig_6.gif

Table 6

Estimated average proportion of imposed sentence lengths served, by offence type, 1987 to 1996


1987

%

1988

%

1989

%

1990

%

199

%

1992

%

1993

%

1994

%

1995

%

1996

%

Violent

58

56

57

57

57

58

58

59

59

59

Other against person

54

46

44

46

44

44

44

46

44

47

Property

54

48

48

48

48

48

47

47

47

47

Drugs

55

46

45

45

45

45

46

45

45

45

Against justice

53

51

53

51

51

51

50

51

51

50

Good order

52

50

50

49

49

50

49

48

51

49

Traffic

52

49

50

49

49

48

49

48

48

48

Miscellaneous

55

48

47

47

49

48

48

48

47

47

By far the longest terms served are by offenders who have committed the most serious violent offences. Those who receive a life sentence (mainly for murder) or a preventive detention sentence (mainly for sexual violation) have no set sentence length to serve and are eligible for parole after a minimum of 10 years (or longer, if a minimum non-parole period is imposed). Even if these inmates stay at around 0.56% of admissions to custody per annum (which has been the case for 1994 to 1996), the number of people serving those sentences is likely to increase significantly over the next decade (in the 1995 census they comprised 7.5% of sentenced inmates (i.e. 311 inmates) compared to 7.2% in the 1993 census and 6.2% in 1991 (footnote 66)). This is due to the increase in the minimum non-parole period to 10 years in 1987, the possibility of extended non-parole periods beyond 10 years after 1993, and the predicted increase in the numbers of admissions overall.

The Effect of Suspended Sentences

The introduction of suspended sentences (footnote 67) is probably contributing to the recent increase in the prison population. This would be through the combination of several factors. A 1995 study showed that the number of people receiving suspended sentences in 1994 (2938) was much larger than the total drop in receptions between 1993 and 1994 (643), let alone the drop in receptions of sentences between 6 months and 2 years (227). This strongly suggested that many suspended sentences were being given in place of non-custodial sentences. Secondly, the greatest reduction in receptions was for sentences of less than 6 months (482), suggesting that sentences of a shorter duration than specified in the Act were replaced by suspended sentences, i.e. offenders who would have otherwise received a sentence of less than 6 months, received longer prison sentences so that they could be suspended. Thirdly, about a quarter of suspended sentences were subsequently activated following further offending. Analysis of a sample of 500 people who received suspended sentences between February and May 1994 showed that between 21% and 27% of these sentences had been activated by June 1995. (footnote 68) Fourthly, the reoffending leading to the activation of the suspended sentences often results in a prison sentence, even though many of the subsequent offences committed are of relatively low seriousness and might not otherwise have resulted in a prison sentence. (footnote 69)

In the period July to December 1996, there were 1,432 cases resulting in a suspended sentence. Over the same time there were only 34 fewer prison receptions in the range of 6 months to 2 years than the number estimated to occur if suspended sentences had not been introduced. (footnote 70) In total the number of prison receptions was only 183 fewer than the estimated number and the largest difference between the actual and the estimated number of inmate receptions actually occurred in respect of the group receiving sentences of less than 6 months (with receptions being 234 lower than the estimate). (Note that receptions to prison of sentences of more than 2 years duration were estimated to have increased by 85.) This suggests that the sentence is still not being imposed in accordance with sections 21A(2) and 21A(3) of the Criminal Justice Act. (footnote 71)

Most (89%) offenders who received a suspended sentence also received a community-based sentence. 59% of offenders receiving a suspended sentence also received periodic detention. There appears to be net-widening as some offenders who would have previously received a non-custodial sentence now receive a suspended prison sentence, most often in conjunction with a community-based sentence. The fact that the largest decrease in prison receptions was for sentences of less than 6 months suggests that longer prison sentences were being imposed in some cases so that they could be suspended. If the activation rate for the sentence continues to be 20% to 25% then the number of suspended sentences in July to December 1996 (1,432) that are activated will be between 286 and 358. This is in comparison to the estimated drop in receptions of 34 in the sentence range of 6 months to 2 years or a drop of 183 in total receptions as a result of suspended sentences.(footnote 72) In other words suspended sentences will cause an increase in the prison population rather than the intended reduction.

The Effect of Combined Sentences

At the time of the introduction in 1993 (footnote 73) of the power to combine community-based sentences and short terms of imprisonment, there were concerns expressed that offenders would end up receiving the same prison sentence they would have previously (since they were short sentences to begin with) plus a community-based sentence as well, or that persons who would not have got a prison sentence at all would get a short prison sentence in addition to the community-based sentence they otherwise would have received. It was suggested that since offenders serving prison sentences of 12 months or less have no conditions attached to their release, the courts would be tempted to impose subsequent sentences of supervision or community programme to achieve the same result as parole conditions, i.e. to reduce the risk of reoffending upon release.

Since 1993 the number of community-based sentences imposed cumulative on a custodial sentence has increased from 763 in 1994, to 1,001 in 1995, then to 1,283 in 1996. In 1996 these cases represented 14% of all cases resulting in a custodial sentence. (footnote 74) It is difficult to judge to what extent, if any, judges are imposing short terms of imprisonment followed by a community-based sentence where previously one or more community-based sentences would have been imposed. It could be working the other way, with shorter terms of imprisonment being imposed than would otherwise have been the case. For example, where once 2 to 3 years imprisonment was imposed, courts may now tend to impose a sentence such as 18 months' imprisonment or less plus 1 year's supervision.

The Forecast Population

The prison population (including remand inmates) is forecasted to increase to 6,000 by 2002/03 (footnote 75) (see Figure 6 below). Reasons for this are:

  • the number of offenders convicted of serious violent offences is predicted to increase gradually in the medium term (even though the rate of increase for violent offences is likely to be much slower than in the early 1990s, and indeed since 1995 there has been a decrease in the number of convictions for violent offences);
  • the number of offenders convicted of serious property and traffic offences is predicted to increase gradually (whereas these decreased or were stable in the early 1990s);
  • the rapid increase in the number of serious violent offenders in the 1980s and early 1990's created a bulge that is still passing through (as many received long sentences);
  • although the average time served was reduced for some offenders in 1993, this has a smaller aggregate effect than the longer sentences now served by serious violent offenders and those serving life or preventive detention;
  • the average imposed sentence length seems unlikely to go down and may continue to increase for serious offenders;
  • the activation of suspended sentences may contribute to an increase in the prison population in the short term.

This forecast is based on current policies continuing. New forecasts will be required when policy changes (e.g. proposed changes to home detention and traffic penalties) are introduced.

Figure 7

Actual and projected prison population, 1980 to 2002

fig_7.gif


 Footnotes:

  1. Prison population indicates the number of people in prison at a particular time or the average over a particular year. Admissions represent the number of people entering prison during a particular period.
  2. Spier, (1997), pp114, 117.

  3. The number of non-traffic offences recorded by the police increased by 29% between 1986 and 1996 (offences against the person more than doubled, offences against justice trebled, and the number of property offences increased by 19%). In spite of this there was a slight decrease in the number of cases dealt with by the criminal courts largely due to the decriminalisation of a number of minor traffic offences. Non-traffic cases increased by 11% and cases involving imprisonable offences increased by 20%. Triggs S, From Crime to Sentence: Trends in Criminal Justice, 1986 to 1996, (1998), pp15-16. Convictions for all non-traffic offences increased by 17% (see Spier, (1997), p26).

  4. Triggs, (1998), p79.
  5. Ibid, p39. The seriousness score used by the Ministry of Justice measures the average number of days of imprisonment imposed on every offender convicted of each offence over a 5 year period, where the average is taken over both imprisoned and non-imprisoned offenders. The total number of custodial days imposed for each offence is divided by the total number of offenders convicted of the offence to arrive at a score which enables offences to be ranked in terms of their relative seriousness. For example if there were 100 cases involving a particular offence and the total number of custodial sentence days imposed was 1500 then the seriousness score for that offence is 15. In any one year the number of convictions for each offence is multiplied by the offence's seriousness score and an average score is obtained for groupings of offences.

  6. Spier, Conviction and Sentencing of Offenders in New Zealand 1985 to 1994, (1995), p132.

  7. Spier, (1997), p117.

  8. Lash, (1996), p35.

  9. Data provided by S Triggs, Ministry of Justice.

  10. Lash, (1995), p26.

  11. Braybrook, B. and O'Neill, R. A Census of Prison Inmates, (1988), p32.

  12. Data provided by S. Triggs, Ministry of Justice.
  13. Triggs, (1995), p35.

  14. Triggs, (1998), pp50-4. As part of the justice sector's Responses to Crime Strategy there is a Responses to Offending by Māori project which aims to identify and implement effective responses to offending by Māori to address the comparatively high proportion of Māori represented in police apprehension, prosecution, conviction and correctional population statistics.

  15. Lash, (1996), p26.

  16. Ibid, p83.

  17. Ibid, p86.

  18. Data provided by P. Spier, Ministry of Justice.

  19. See Lash, (1996), Table 17.11.

  20. Data provided by S. Triggs.

  21. Lash, (1996), p31.

  22. Ibid, pp30, 32.

  23. Triggs, (1998), p79.

  24. Lash, (1996), Table 17.9 on p85.

  25. Data provided by P. Spier, Ministry of Justice.

  26. Data provided by S Triggs, Ministry of Justice.
  27. Data provided by P. Spier, Ministry of Justice.

  28. Data provided by P. Spier, Ministry of Justice; Lash, (1996), p85
  29. See footnote 36.

  30. Triggs, (1998), pp78-9.

  31. Ibid, pp80-2.

  32. 1997 data indicates that imprisonment rates for less serious offences have increased again in 1996 and 1997. This seems to be related to the activation of suspended sentences.
  33. Ibid, p81.

  34. Data provided by S. Triggs, Ministry of Justice.

  35. Lash, (1996), p84.

  36. See section 2 above for a description of how suspended sentences operate.
  37. Spier, (1995), p126.

  38. Data provided by S Triggs, Ministry of Justice
  39. This is based on trends in the ratio of receptions to total convicted imprisonable cases in the second half of the years 1986 to 1992 (i.e. the 7 years prior to the introduction of suspended sentences), extended through to 1996. As the actual number of convicted imprisonable cases was known for 1996, the estimated ratio could be used to calculate the estimated number of receptions. The difference between the estimated number of receptions (if suspended sentences had not been introduced) and the actual number of receptions is an indication of the effect of suspended sentences.

  40. These sections state that a suspended sentence shall not be ordered unless the court would have sentenced the offender to imprisonment if a suspended sentence was not an available option and the length of a suspended sentences should correspond to the period of imprisonment that would otherwise have been given.

  41. Spier, (1997), pp127-33.

  42. Criminal Justice Amendment Act 1993.
  43. Data provided by P. Spier, Ministry of Justice.

  44. Forecast provided by S. Triggs, Ministry of Justice, May 1998.