2 Feb 2010

Judge upset youth rehab programme scrapped

10:53 pm on 2 February 2010

A former Youth Court judge involved in setting up an intensive rehabilitation programme for young offenders says the Government's decision to close it makes no sense.

Judge Carolyn Henwood says she spent years getting support for the Te Hurihanga course in Hamilton, but the Government says it wants something more cost-effective, even though none of the graduates have reoffended.

The 18-month treatment programme has cost $5 million over three years. It has produced eight graduates with another 10 due to finish shortly. Each of the group, aged 14 to 17, had more than 25 convictions each.

Justice Minister Simon Power says a new programme - which will align more closely with the Government's Fresh Start initiative for young offenders - will be found via open tender.

Child, Youth and Family will take over the building and run the new programme from 1 July.

The Government says the cost of the Te Hurihanga programme is an average of $630,000 for every successful graduate.

However, Judge Carolyn Henwood told Nine to Noon that includes set-up costs, such as the construction of the buildings used. She says it took 10 years to find the skilled staff and build up community support and it would be a waste of money to start again.

Judge Henwood says the course targeted the most prolific young offenders and turning one of those lives around costs less than having them in jail.

"That's surely something that should be factored into the cost-effectiveness. Is it just what it costs the Government to pay for the house and staff, or is it the benefit for society when you turn boys into taxpayers and they're not making victims."

Supporters say the continuation of the course would have saved the country millions in future costs by turning teenagers from a life of crime.

Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Beecroft says the long-term cost of repeat offenders must also be taken into account. He says the cost of imprisoning an adult is estimated to be $100,000 per year.