The Prime Minister says elections are fought on a small number of key things - including law and order - and he says people have a right to feel safe in their community.
International and local justice sector specialists met at Parliament on Tuesday to canvass ideas to reduce crime.
Mr Key says countries around the world are starting to understand what the drivers of crime are and what can be done to reduce it.
He says people have a right to feel safe in their community.
"One of the very clear things we need to do is make sure that we get on top of those drug and alcohol issues in our prisons, that we work extremely hard to make sure our prisoners actually have the skills, so that ultimately when they go back into the community, they've got a genuine alternative pathway," he says.
Mr Key says the view that many people are committing crimes is not correct.
"I think in a lot of respects you know people sort of take the simplistic view that somehow lots of people out there are creating or undertaking crimes.
"The reality is in New Zealand, it is a relatively small group that commit the vast overwhelming bulk of crime," he says.
Western Australia's Attorney-General, Singapore's judicial commissioner, as well as New Zealand's Minister of Courts, Chester Borrows, were among those who are attending.