Rehabilitating the Offender
The penal administration has two aims – to ensure that those committed to institutions are securely kept there and, more positively, to do everything practicable to rehabilitate offenders, especially young offenders, so that they will become good members of the community. To this latter end there has in recent years been considerable expansion in chaplaincy, educational, trade training, and psychological services within all penal institutions. Former negative approaches have not had notable success and, under a policy of responsible experimentation, new methods and techniques are being adopted. One of the most promising is known as group counselling, which may briefly be described as a meeting of a number of inmates under the leadership of an officer, to discuss their problems together.
Particular attention is paid to the problems of transition from prison to the free society. The step from custody to freedom is a difficult one for prisoners, many of whom require assistance, advice, and discipline if they are not to relapse into crime. For this reason those released from a sentence of detention in a detention centre, borstal training, preventive detention, or imprisonment for 12 months or more are on probation for a period. The Court may order that a person sentenced to less than 12 months' imprisonment be on probation after release. As another means of bridging the gulf between institutional life and the free community, inmates may be allowed absence on parole for a short period before their discharge to revisit their homes, arrange employment, and so on. There is power also to release selected inmates during the day to work in the community. For borstal trainees pre-release hostels have been established at Invercargill, Auckland, Hamilton, and Wellington, chosen inmates residing there and working for wages for private employers. The sanction for misbehaviour is immediate return to the institution. There is room for much more to be done to help offenders after their release; for instance, by setting up post-release hostels. Efforts are being made to enlist the help of the community in making good citizens out of young delinquents.
The need to release persons sentenced to indeterminate detention at the most appropriate time led to the establishment in 1910 of the Prisons Board, the present counterparts of which are the Prisons Parole Board and three Borstal Parole Boards. The Prisons Parole Board may also consider the case of persons serving finite terms of imprisonment in special circumstances and advises the Government concerning the release of those serving life sentences. It has a Judge as chairman, the Secretary for Justice, and up to five other members. A Magistrate presides over each Borstal Parole Board, the other members being the Secretary for Justice, the superintendent of the particular institution, and two local residents.
An important development is to keep offenders out of institutions and to rehabilitate them within the community whenever practicable. The offender is one who is unable or unwilling to respect his obligations to others. But however enlightened a prison regime may be, it is difficult to learn in captivity how to live as a member of the free community. A significant development in policy is therefore to reform offenders wherever possible within the community. The sentence of periodic detention is a step in this direction.