Two recent studies of socio-economic and reconviction outcomes for similar people sentenced to home detention and short terms of imprisonment found positive outcomes favouring the use of home detention, criminologist Wayne Goodall says.
In an article in the July 2019 issue of The New Zealand Corrections Journal, Dr Goodall says both studies provide evidence that rates of employment are modestly higher and rates of benefit uptake lower for those who served home detention, relative to outcomes for those released after serving short sentences of imprisonment.
"The findings in relation to reconviction are mixed, with only small differences in re-offending rates found, and thus do not support a conclusion that either sentence type is more or less likely to result in subsequent reconviction."
The two studies are both unpublished. The first, by S Dixon and M Morris, was in 2015 and entitled "The impact of alternative sentences on adult offenders’ subsequent outcomes: Prison versus home detention". The second study was by BERL in 2018, "The case for home detention".
Dr Goodall says that although both studies have limitations that mean the results and conclusions should be treated with caution, the positive socio-economic outcomes, much lower cost, and absence of negative reconviction effects, support the Department of Correction's general practice of recommending home detention whenever practicable when a short sentence of imprisonment would otherwise be imposed.
"The studies provide support for the proposition that home detention offers integrative or reintegrative benefits relative to imprisonment," he says. "Home detainees are less likely to be on a benefit and more likely to be in employment in the medium term (12 months or more after sentence commencement)."
Dr Goodall says except for the BERL finding of a lower likelihood of reconviction for home detainees after one year, there was no statistically significant difference in the likelihood of reconviction.
"If we assume the omitted variables around availability of accommodation and higher levels of prosocial support would, if known, be more prevalent for home detainees, the actual results may be overstated. Based on the available evidence it is concluded that there is no difference in real reconviction rates between home detainees and those released from a short term of imprisonment."