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Working paper

The Impact of Sentencing on Adult Offenders' Future Employment and Re-offending - Community Work Versus Fines (WP 15/04)

Issue date: 
Tuesday, 23 June 2015
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Publication category: 
JEL classification: 
D4 - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design
K14 - Criminal Law

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This study provides evidence to help inform sentencing policy by assessing the differential impact of two types of sentences (community work and fines) on adult offenders' subsequent employment, benefit receipt and re-offending.


This study provides evidence to help inform sentencing policy by assessing the differential impact of two types of sentences (community work and fines) on adult offenders' subsequent employment, benefit receipt and re-offending. This is the first study in New Zealand to examine post-sentencing employment outcomes and benefit receipt of such offenders.

We focus on offences where we observe variation in sentencing after controlling for observable differences and examine outcomes for up to three years following conviction. This analysis uses recently-linked anonymised administrative data from the tax, benefit and justice systems within Statistics New Zealand's Integrated Data Infrastructure, which provides detailed information on all convicted offenders and their offending. Impacts are estimated by comparing the changes in post-conviction outcomes of offenders who received a fine with changes in outcomes for matched comparison groups of offenders who received a community work sentence. Matching is done using the method of propensity score matching. Impacts are estimated separately for four types of offences and for a general model that pools several types of offences together.

People sentenced to community work are more likely to re-offend within two years of conviction compared to fined offenders. There is no difference in impact on employment during the follow-up period for the two types of sentences (except in one case where there is a short-term differential impact in the year following conviction). We find that people sentenced to community work are more likely to be on benefit following conviction compared to people who are fined. We regard our estimates as an upper bound of the true differential impact of community work compared to fines on offenders' subsequent outcomes. While our method controls for observed offender characteristics, it is still possible that there are significant uncontrolled differences between the offenders who were sentenced to community work and those who were fined (eg, the differences in being on benefit could be due to differences in the level of financial support from a partner).


The authors wish to thank Statistics New Zealand for access to the data. The authors are grateful to Wayne Goodall for valuable advice throughout the project and for the use of his court circuit and offence code groupings. Thanks also to Sarah Crichton, Sylvia Dixon and Richard Fabling and anonymous reviewers for feedback and advice that significantly improved this paper.


The views, opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Working Paper are strictly those of the author(s). They do not necessarily reflect the views of the New Zealand Treasury, Statistics New Zealand, the Ministry of Justice or the New Zealand Government.  The New Zealand Treasury, Statistics New Zealand, Ministry of Justice and the New Zealand Government take no responsibility for any errors or omissions in, or for the correctness of, the information contained in these working papers. The paper is presented not as policy, but with a view to inform and stimulate wider debate.

The results in this report are not official statistics - they have been created for research purposes from the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI) managed by Statistics New Zealand. On-going work within Statistics New Zealand to develop the IDI means it will not be possible to exactly reproduce the data presented here.

Access to the anonymised data used in this study was provided by Statistics New Zealand in accordance with security and confidentiality provisions of the Statistics Act 1975. Only people authorised by the Statistics Act 1975 are allowed to see data about a particular person, household, business or organisation. The results in this report have been confidentialised to protect these groups from identification.

Careful consideration has been given to the privacy, security and confidentiality issues associated with using administrative and survey data in the IDI. Further detail can be found in the Privacy impact assessment for the Integrated Data Infrastructure available from Statistics New Zealand.[1]

The results are based in part on tax data supplied by Inland Revenue to Statistics New Zealand under the Tax Administration Act 1994. This tax data must be used only for statistical purposes, and no individual information may be published or disclosed in any other form or provided to Inland Revenue for administrative or regulatory purposes.

Any person who has had access to the unit-record data has certified that they have been shown, have read and have understood section 81 of the Tax Administration Act 1994, which relates to secrecy. Any discussion of data limitations or weaknesses is in the context of using the IDI for statistical purposes and is not related to the data's ability to support Inland Revenue's core operational requirements.


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Last updated: 
Tuesday, 23 June 2015