matters of substance
year there are two and a half thousand convictions of people aged 25 and under for possession and/or use of an illicitdrug or drug utensil in New Zealand.Between 2007 and 2011, there were 12,895 convictions inthis age range. Over this period, New Zealand has spent more than$59 million imprisoning those who are convicted of minor drugoffences and have to serve custodial sentences. This money isspent on imprisonment costs alone – it does not include costs toPolice, the courts, treatment or probation.With an average cost of over $18,000 per person imprisonedfor minor drug offences, we have to start asking, what is the costof convicting young New Zealanders?
The reality is that lots ofNew
Zealanders will use drugsat some stage in their lives.
According to a Ministry of Health survey, about half of all adultNew Zealanders – or around 1.4 million people – have used illegaldrugs. Around 485,500 had done so in the past year.Most people will use drugs when they are young. The Ministryof Health found that over half of those aged 18–24 and almosttwo-thirds of those aged 25–34 admitted to using illegal drugs.Data from the Christchurch Health and Development Studyfound the rates of youth drug use to be even higher. By the age of 25, over 77 percent of the young people in their study admittedto using illegal drugs.
Ever used any drugs for recreational purposes in lifetime,among total population aged 16–64 years, by age group andgender (unadjusted prevalence).
Unsurprisingly, youngNew Zealanders are often theones being caught up in thecriminal justice system.
This is a bad thing for many reasons. It severely narrowsopportunities: it’s harder to get a job, harder to travel, harder toget credit and harder to do many things most of us take for granted.It also exposes them to a negative environment, and it puts themin prison – a university of crime where drug use is rampant andjoining a gang is often necessary for protection. All of this at a timewhen their brains and identities are forming.We are stacking the odds against our young people. Almosthalf of all people convicted of possession and/or use of an illicitdrug or drug utensil are aged between 17 and 25.
Number and percentage of 17–25-year-olds convicted of possession and/or use of an illicit drug or drug utensil.
44% 45% 45% 44% 41%2,456 2,662 3,020 2,702 2,055
Gender and ethnicity plays a role too. Signiﬁcantly moremales are convicted every year than females.
Female 351 363 394 366 277Male 2,103 2,297 2,623 2,336 1,778Unknown 2 2 3 0 0Total 2,456 2,662 3,020 2,702 2,055
ori making up 15 percent of the population,M
ori aged 17–25 make up 37 percent of those convictedof possession and/or use of an illicit drug or drug utensil.
Pa-keha-1,259 1,391 1,605 1,501 1,112Ma-ori 965 990 1,131 989 765Other 80 73 94 69 68Paciﬁc 103 143 159 130 99Unknown 49 65 31 13 11
The cost of our convictions
100908070605040302010016–1718–2425–3435–4445–5455–64Age group (years)