Ministry of Justice looked into automatically releasing first-time prisoners, but Kiri Allan rules out idea

Newshub can reveal the Ministry of Justice has looked into automatically releasing first-time prisoners.

The National Party's accusing the Government of trying to find workarounds to lower our prison population, but the minister in charge says that's not the case.

The country's prison population has decreased by nearly a quarter since 2017. The Labour-led Government's pledged to cut it by 30 percent over 15 years.

But the National Party's concerned they're looking for shortcuts to do that. 

"They're just looking for ways to empty out our prisons," said National's justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith.

A document released under the Official Information Act shows reports and briefings received by the Ministry of Justice around our sentencing options since June 2021. 

The full documents weren't released but a table shows the ministry's received analysis reports looking into:

  • Automatically releasing first-time prisoners
  • Comparisons between home detention and prison sentences of 3 years or less
  • The presumption of home detention in certain circumstances and the knock-on effect of that instead of prison time
  • Avoiding gang recruitment, including the impact of releasing gang-linked prisoners

"It shows their mindset and their mindset is scratching around looking for ways to get more people out of prison," said Goldsmith.

But Justice Minister Kiri Allan said "that's what we're not doing". 

She said her ministry continually provides briefings and information on all areas within the justice sector, but whether or not they're on the actual cards is a different story.

"I can be very clear with you, it's not part of my working agenda."

Goldsmith wants a "clear determination" that the Government won't be "following up any of these leads". 

"I'm ruling out the titles of those papers," Allan said.

The advice was requested following public consultation on justice reform in 2019.

Andrew Little was the Justice Minister then, but by the time the advice came back, Kris Faafoi was in the role. A third Justice Minister later and the work looks to be dead in the water under Allan - hopefully enough to quash National's qualms.