Breach of supervision orders by serious sex offenders no cause for alarm
“The public has no reason to panic because of an increase in serious sex offenders who breach conditions around extended
supervision orders”, said Kim Workman, Director of Rethinking Crime and Punishment. He was referring to a NZ Herald
article “More Freed Sex Offenders Break Rules” (23 Jan 2012) which reported that justice advocates were alarmed at the
increase in the numbers reported for the breach of supervision orders.”
“The real measure of public safety is whether or not there has also been an increase in re-offending by released serious
sex offenders. In fact, there has been a decrease in serious sex offending, and in sexual offending generally. An
increase in breaches of supervision orders is not in itself, a cause for alarm.”
“There are a number of reasons for the increase. Firstly, Corrections has become increasingly risk averse in recent
years and more likely to seek an extended supervision order from the Court. Any subsequent breaches of conditions can
result in the offender re-appearing before the Court, being more closely supervised, and in some cases, returned to
prison. Increased reporting for breaches should be seen as evidence that the Probation Office is doing its job.
“Community Corrections staff are in an unenviable place. The research tells them that intensive post-release supervision
without treatment or support is highly ineffective. Heavy-handed control tactics serve to undermine respect for the
Probation Service. Parole prohibitions which are impossible to enforce, are often viewed as evidence by the offender
that the entire parole process is a joke. Persons returning from prison with few resources and little hope, become
defiant when they are faced with a pile of sanctions. Constant threats that are not backed up can lead to a form of
psychological inoculation. On the other hand, public safety demands that for a small group of serious sex offenders,
vigourous supervision is necessary.
Community Probation’s new approach to offender supervision provides for a greater level of professional judgment, and
the ability to adjust the level of surveillance according to levels of risk.
The best approach seems to be strict monitoring on key issues of compliance, coupled with a commitment to resourcing the
provision of offender support through volunteer and community organisations. The Circles of Support and Accountability
programme, which uses trained volunteers to provide ongoing offender support, provides further reductions in
reoffending, and guarantees a higher level of public assurance.