Long-Term Insights Briefing for the justice sector

Published: February 16, 2023

Long-Term Insights Briefings (LTIBs) are a government initiative that require agencies to identify and explore issues that matter for the future wellbeing of Aotearoa New Zealanders. Agencies working in the justice sector have collaborated to produce Long-term insights on imprisonment 1960 to 2050.


Ministry of Justice coordinated a broad consultation to gather views for the LTIB, and external partners, stakeholders and experts, together with more than 2,800 members of the public, contributed. Ināia Tonu Nei, a hui, a kaupapa and an independent collective of Māori policy experts and kaitiaki who have a Mana Ōrite relationship with the Justice Sector Leadership Board, worked alongside the justice agencies throughout the process.

The Briefing also uses data and insights from the past 60 years to identify what has been driving changes in imprisonment and in the prison population. It explores the factors that help keep people out of prison and what this might tell us about future opportunities and risks.

Developing the LTIB was an opportunity for all justice agencies to work together and look systematically across the sector over a 60-year period. The briefing provides information and insights that allow public debate to be informed by strong evidence and contains useful information and context about the prison system which may not be widely known.

Key findings

Key LTIB insights (2030-2050) include:  

Demographics: New Zealand is likely to have a smaller per capita prison population. there could be proportionately fewer young people in prison but they are likely to have a range of complex needs. The prison population will continue to age through to 2040 after which the average age of people in prison could either plateau or drop slightly.

Community involvement in the justice system: this is likely to become more professionalised and formalised, and could potentially expand into new areas over time.

Mãori overrepresentation is predicted to continue: this issue can only be addressed by tackling root causes and with ongoing participation across multiple sectors, including the economic, education, health and social sectors. Continuing to build relationships with whānau, hapū, iwi and other Māori groups will be key as we look to the future.

New Zealand may continue to have a growing remand population: responses would need to focus on court resolution times, movements between bail and remand, prevention and approaches where people are remanded in custody.

Technology will change the way the justice system operates: benefits could include improved access to programmes, education and training, but there could be implications for privacy and the rights of people in prisons.