Amy Adams is the new Justice Minister, Peseta Sam Lotu-liga has taken over as Minister of Corrections, and Michael Woodhouse is the Minister of Police.
This might be very good news – all three have extensive academic qualifications, relevant business experience and a history of working with community or volunteer organisations.
That’s not to say that a changing of the guard is necessarily always a move forward: Anne Tolley’s Department of Corrections, for example, has been notably effective in developing an approach that has been meaningfully evidence-based. This has seen development of work and education programmes in prisons, as well as expansions and changes to the role that Corrections plays in prisoners’ lives after they leave prison. This has been a slow process with plenty of setbacks, but it has been positive, in particular in Canterbury.
Ms Tolley has been succeeded by Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, who is also the Minister for Ethnic Communities and minister for Pacific Peoples. As one of only two Pacifica National MPs, Lotu-liga represents a potentially intuitive choice to lead Corrections: Pacific Peoples are significantly overrepresented* in New Zealand’s prisons, making up 12 percent of prisoners but only 6.9 percent of the national population. Coming from a background in which crime is a community problem rather than a punishment problem, we hope that Mr Lotu-liga’s Department will be as open (or more so) to non-punitive means of reducing reoffending as the previous administration. Although he has yet to release any formal statement about his intentions for Corrections, speaking at the launch of a Pacifica-targeted violence prevention programme earlier this year, Mr Lotu-liga was quoted as saying that “Research has shown that support for prisoners from their own communities greatly assists their reintegration when they are released from prison. A big component of the program is getting family involved.”
If he brings this attitude to his new job, we expect to see big things from Corrections over the next three years.
*Notably, this is still only a fraction of how badly Maori are over-represented in our prisons: 51 percent of our prisoners are Maori, but only 14.6 percent of the total population are Maori.