New Zealanders overwhelmingly want to see sweeping changes made to our criminal justice system, two new reports have revealed, with most Kiwis wanting funding reallocated to better support victims, rehabilitate offenders and prevent crime.
The Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata: 2019 public survey of attitudes toward the justice system, released by the Ministry of Justice, shows more than 80 percent of respondents to a random sample survey believe criminal justice resources are allocated in the wrong way.
As it stands, about a third (35.7 percent) of criminal justice funding goes towards managing sentences, for example prisons and probation, while just under a third (30.6 percent) is spent on adjudicating cases - police prosecutions and courts, for instance.
Just 12.8 percent of available funding is spent on police crime prevention activities, with the same amount spent on investigating crime. Another 7.7 percent goes towards rehabilitating offenders and a tiny fraction - 0.5 percent of total funding - is allocated to supporting victims.
Results of the report show Kiwis aren't happy with this allocation. Most want more spent on victim support, rehabilitating offenders and preventing crime, while more than 40 percent wanting less spent on managing sentences and adjudicating cases.
Overwhelmingly, respondents to the survey wanted victims' interests at the heart of the criminal justice system, and that less serious offences - disorderly behaviour, for example - should be dealt with in communities instead of through the formal justice system.
A majority of respondents also believed Maori should lead on solutions to criminal justice issues for Maori.
Only half of Kiwis have confidence the justice system is effective
The Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata report was one of two released by the Ministry of Justice on Wednesday. The other - the NZ Crime and Victims Survey: Social wellbeing and perceptions of the criminal justice system report - showed only about half of Kiwis were confident or fairly confident that the system as a whole was effective.
Bisexual people (27 percent) and Maori (39 percent) were among those who were least likely to be confident or fairly confident than New Zealand adults overall (53 percent).
Just over 50 percent of New Zealanders said their feelings about what is right and wrong usually agree with the criminal justice system, with Māori (38 percent), Chinese (39 percent) and Pasifika (39 percent) less likely than other ethnic groups to feel their values align.
However two-thirds of adults (66 percent) who'd had contact with the criminal justice system in the previous 12 months said they had had a positive or very positive experience. One in five of these had been in a vehicle that was stopped by police.
The report also found that Pasifika people were four times more likely to worry about being a victim of a crime than Pakeha - even though the actual experience of crime for these groups is almost the same.
How the Ministry of Justice reacted
The Ministry of Justice's sector deputy secretary says the reports have "some fascinating insight" into what Kiwis think about their justice system.
Tim Hampton says the results shed light on areas of the system that could be made safer and more effective for New Zealanders.
"While there is a solid level of trust in the criminal justice system, Pacific peoples and Indian New Zealanders are more concerned about being the victim of a crime than other New Zealand adults," he said.
"Māori and Pacific peoples are less likely to agree that New Zealanders are treated fairly by the Police [and] Māori, Chinese and Pacific adults are all less likely to feel that their values align with the criminal justice system than other adults.
"While there are disparities between the two reports, which use different methodologies, there was common ground found on a number of topics including that the goal of the criminal justice system should be to help offenders so they don't reoffend."
One of the key findings, he says, is that while there are "differing views on the contribution of social circumstances and personal choice" on the likelihood of committing a crime, the vast majority of Kiwis believe offenders can "go on to lead productive lives with some help and hard work".