Group of young people standing against a wall.

Military-style Activity Camp (MAC) Programme Snapshot

The Military-style Activity Camp (MAC) programme is a promising programme designed to provide intensive support to the most serious and persistent youth offenders each year in New Zealand

This snapshot outlines the findings from an evaluation of the Military-style Activity Camp (MAC) programme undertaken by the Knowledge & Insights Group, Ministry of Social Development. The MAC programme, introduced in October 2010 as part of the Government’s Fresh Start reforms, targets 40 of the most serious and persistent youth offenders in New Zealand each year who are on the cusp of entering the adult jurisdiction. MACs are delivered in partnership by Child, Youth and Family (CYF) and the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF).

The evaluation, carried out between February and June 2013, identifies parts of the MAC programme that are working well or not so well and examines early evidence regarding the overall effectiveness of the MAC programme. The evaluation uses several methods of data collection, including qualitative interviews with residential and community-based staff and a small number of young people; an analysis of CYF administration data; in-depth case studies of four young people; and a reoffending outcomes analysis for MAC participants six months and 12 months after completion of their Supervision with Residence (SwR) orders.

Description of the MAC programme

The MAC programme was designed to provide intensive wraparound support to 40 of the most serious and persistent young male offenders each year to assist them to make pro-social choices (eg not reoffending) and ultimately make a successful transition to adulthood.

The programme includes:

  • a nine-week MAC residential programme based in Christchurch. This utilises NZDF adventure-based learning facilities, combining military-type activities as part of a broader residential intervention programme, which includes therapeutic and educational interventions.
  • transition back into the community, on a Supervision order. When released from residence, each young person must serve a Supervision order of between six and 12 months duration with ongoing support by a social-service provider. The development of a plan to return the young person to the community, and the successful implementation of that plan, is crucial to the overall effectiveness of the MAC programme.

Key findings

The MAC programme appears to be achieving promising results in terms of reducing reoffending for high risk young people. The latest monitoring figures show that as of August 2013, 42 MAC participants had graduated from the MAC programme and been back in the community for at least 12 months.[1] Of this group:

  • seventeen per cent (7) had not reoffended at all
  • thirty-one per cent (13) had received a custodial sentence of Supervision with Residence (SwR) or prison.

[1] Young people need to be back in the community for sufficient time to make measuring their reduction of reoffending meaningful. The evaluation report conducted by the Knowledge & Insights Group, Ministry of Social Development, captures data through to June 2013.

Reoffending has reduced

Comparing the 12 months after the MACs to the 12 months before for these 42 young people:

  • eighty-three per cent (35) reduced the frequency of their offending
  • seventy-six per cent (32) reduced the seriousness of their offending.

The total number of crimes committed by the 42 MAC participants halved from 660 offences in the 12 months before the MACs to 325 offences in the 12 months after exiting the residence (a reduction of 335 or 51 per cent if they had continued to offend at the same rate):

  • eighty per cent (259) were committed by half (17) of the 35 MAC graduates who reoffended. The other 18 reoffenders committed a total of 66 offences between them.
  • the total number of robbery-related offences committed by the 42 MAC participants reduced by 64 per cent, while the number of offences involving acts intended to cause injury dropped by 25 per cent.
  • seven MAC participants did not reoffend within 12 months, while a further three committed one offence, and five others committed two offences.
  • of the eight young people who committed one or two offences in the 12 months after the MAC, six committed minor offences with no direct physical harm to any member of the public. Examples of such offences were breach of a local liquor-ban, a learner driver being unaccompanied and a graffiti offence.

MAC programme reoffending rates are similar to or slightly better than reoffending rates for non-MAC participants sentenced to a custodial order (SwR)

For 172 young males sentenced to SwR orders (but who did not attend the MAC), in the 12 months after release:

  • eleven per cent (19) did not reoffend
  • thirty per cent (51) received a custodial sentence.

Comparing the 12 months after the SwR orders to the 12 months before:

  • seventy-two per cent (123) reduced the frequency of their offending
  • seventy-seven per cent (133) reduced the seriousness of their offending.

Analysis shows that the average risk of reoffending for MAC participants is notably higher than for other male offenders sentenced to a SwR order and who did not participate in a MAC. Given the higher average risk of MAC participants, the fact that their recidivism rates are similar to or slightly better than reoffending rates for non-MAC participants sentenced to SwR, may indicate that the MAC programme is making a positive difference.

At the moment we can state that the MAC programme is producing some promising results in terms of reduced recidivism. However, the small numbers who have completed the programme so far mean that it’s too early to say that these results are statistically significant. The impact of the MAC programme on recidivism results will be formally tested through a robust statistical analysis by the end of 2014.

MAC is contributing to educational/vocational achievement

The MAC programme also attempts to help young people develop in positive and pro-social ways. Educational and vocational achievements for participants within MACs Three to Eight include:

  • twenty-six of the forty-seven young people were able to achieve NCEA Level 1 credits, including a small number who also achieved Level 2 credits
  • twenty-five of the young people achieved a total of 108 numeracy-related Level 1 credits between them, and 16 achieved a total of 39 literacy-related credits
  • Level 2 credits were achieved in the areas of computing; business administration; and building, construction and allied trades skills
  • all MAC participants sat their OSH Forklift certification and almost all of them passed
  • all MAC participants sat and passed their Site Safe building construction passport enabling them to work on construction sites
  • eleven MAC participants sat their learner licence test.

Some young people make a successful transition to the community

Around one in five young people graduating from the MAC programme had a successful transition back into the community. They had not reoffended in over 12 months or had committed only a single offence of a minor nature. These young people were often living in a different location from before the MAC programme, with a supportive member of their wider family, and also had another adult in their lives for support, such as a mentor.

What could be improved upon?

The critical areas on which to focus attention are the selection and referral process and the community phase of the MAC programme. Some improvements could also be made to the residential phase.

Short to medium term operational improvements include to:

  • refine the matching processes to ensure that MAC programme participants are those most likely to benefit from the MAC intervention
  • intensify monitoring practices to ensure that all young people attending the MAC have an initial needs assessment which is reviewed at key points in the programme
  • ensure that every young person transitions with an individualised, fully-funded, achievable plan. This plan will be linked to the assessed needs of the young person and will be reviewed at key points following the transition. Better monitoring and sign-off processes will also be introduced.

These proposed short- to medium-term operational improvements are consistent with the MAC programme design and will strengthen the programmes implementation and use. Many of the operational improvements have already started to be implemented and monitored.

The MAC experience can offer learning that can also benefit SwR orders generally and improve transitions to the community from youth justice residences which is also a key strategy for the Youth Crime Action Plan.

Observations following the evaluation suggested further areas of longer-term policy work that could strengthen the overall design of the programme. These include:

Residential phase

  • addressing the lack of integration and clear purpose to some components in the nine week residential phase. An investigation will take place into whether there should be consolidation or a reduction in the number of components to ensure that each component can have optimum benefit to MAC participants, and programme elements are matched to individualised needs
  • determining the most suitable approach to the criminogenic programme.

Community transitions

  • continuing to develop, monitor and improve options for a more structured and staged transition between the MAC programme residential and community phases to ensure the gains from the programme are maintained
  • strengthening strategies both during the residential phase and the community phase to ensure MAC participants engage in further education and training (including some form of tertiary education) and to prepare them for the workforce
  • bolstering the support and involvement of whänau from the time a young person is being referred to the MAC programme through to the transition back to the community.


  • exploring options to provide the MAC programme as part of a Supervision with Activity order. This is to prevent unnecessary escalation of some young people to a youth justice residence to be able to participate in the programme as well as prevent some of the difficulties with transition from residence
  • monitoring when there are sufficient volumes to undertake a matched-control analysis for MAC to get statistically significant results (It is estimated that this will be near the end of 2014).
Group of young people standing against a wall.


MAC evaluation report

Sep 2013

MAC reoffending data

Sep 2013

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