“Chris Hipkins’ claim on Newstalk ZB that the reduction in prison numbers is primarily due to fewer people in prison on driving and cannabis charges, is completely wrong and was disproven when his Police Minister said it months ago,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Hipkins said to Mike Hosking this morning “the areas where we’ve seen a reduction in the number of people in prison, it’s been primarily traffic offences or drug and alcohol offences.”

“This is almost exactly the same false claim made by Police Minister Ginny Anderson on the same ZB show back in July. It was untrue then and is untrue now.

“Figures from Statistics New Zealand show that the population of sentenced prisoners, not those awaiting trial, dropped by 4,092, or 44 per cent between 2017 and 2022. Helpfully, Stats NZ break prisoner numbers down by each prisoner’s worst offence.

“Since 2017, the largest drop was ‘Offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations,’ at 990 fewer prisoners in the 2022 year than 2017.

“The second largest drop was ‘Acts intended to cause injury,’ 606 fewer people were in prison with that as their worst offence in 2022 than in 2017. Rounding out the top three was “Unlawful entry with intent/burglary, break and enter,” with a drop of 603.

“’Traffic and Vehicle Regulatory Offences’ were fourth, with a drop of 459, and ‘illicit drug offences’ were sixth, with a drop of 324 in the years 2017-2022. Traffic and Cannabis had nowhere near the largest drops in prisoner numbers, as Hipkins claimed.

“It is possible he was talking about percentage drops, but he would still be incorrect. In the years 2017-2022, traffic did have the largest percentage reduction, 66 per cent, and drugs had the fourth largest reduction, at 53 per cent.

“However, these figures still aren’t the greatest and second greatest. The percentage reductions are higher because there were fewer people in jail on these charges to start with. The public are interested in the number of dangerous people let out.

“It’s possible he was referring to a different starting year. ACT has crunched the numbers, comparing every starting year from 1998 onwards with the imprisonment figures in 2022. There is not a single year where traffic and drugs have the two largest reductions in sentenced prisoners.

“Hipkins has not just got this a little bit wrong. We can’t see how he could have thought he was right. Had he been answering questions in Parliament, he would have been before the Privileges Committee.

“What is clear is that this Government has a woeful record, not just for locking up fewer prisoners, but for locking up fewer of the most serious offenders.

“ACT will end Labour’s prisoner reduction experiment. Until we accept reality and start locking up more criminals, Kiwis will remain unsafe in their communities, their workplaces and even their homes.

“Imprisonment is better than lawlessness. Locking up criminals is about preventing more victims.”

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