Funding towards prisoner rehabilitation 'feeble' - advocacy groups

New funding towards prisoner rehabilitation is just a fraction of the $763m extra money put aside in this year's Budget to boost prison capacity.

Advocacy groups say the Government needs to rethink its approach to reduce the country's shocking prison rate, which sits at more than 10,000 inmates.

Daniel Downing says he's out of jail, and is feeling hopeless.

"I just feel like burying my head under a pillow and going to sleep."

Downing has been in jail more times than he can count. He's on home detention following a recent six-month stint for selling methamphetamine.

Downing says he's had little help from the Department of Corrections to find accommodation, get on a benefit or get counselling.

He says with a bit of help overcoming the many barriers he faces, he could return to work mowing lawns.

But Corrections says Downing has had plenty of help, including rehab and counselling, and say prisoner rehabilitation is a priority.

They say while their core function is to hold people to account, they offer numerous programmes to help offenders lead productive, crime-free lives.

Corrections spent $176m on reintegration and rehabilitation last year and this year's Budget had extra funding over four years.

This extra funding includes $51.6m for community-based offenders and the Parole Board, $30.2m for mental health and education, and $13.9m to reduce youth reoffending.

But justice advocacy groups say that spending is feeble compared to the $763m set aside to expand Waikeria Prison and boost capacity in Northland and Auckland.

JustSpeak Director Katie Bruce says we're investing heavily in our "most expensive and least effective institutions".

"I think we could have done some much more creative and innovative things."

Criminal justice commentator Roger Brooking says it's ridiculous to put money into something that doesn't work.

"The only reason there are more prisons is because of successive governments legislation over the last 10-15 years, and the whole process of penal populism."

Advocates told Newshub extra drug courts, smaller prisons, rethinking bail laws and pumping funds in reintegration outside of prison would cut reoffending rates - and the need for new prisons.