Criminal Justice Changes

August 15th, 2006 at 4:45 pm by David Farrar

There’s a fair number of proposals in the Government’s announcement today so let’s take them one at a time.

Before that though I should point out that the PM’s surprise at falling levels of recorded crime and rising prison populations is easily explained. Most recorded crime is minor and does not attract prison. Violent crimes are the ones which tend to get people into prison, and they have been increasing steadily since she became PM.

Establish a Sentencing Council – 6/10

On balance it is probably a good thing to have the Government more directly involved in sentencing guidelines because then they can’t blame sentences just on Judges. The negative is it may politicise it more.

Increase parole eligibility from 1/3 to 2/3 of a sentence – 8/10

I am being generous here as it was Labour in 2002 which made 1/3 sentence possible for many crimes. And it should be greater than 2/3 – say 90% or so.

The official estimate is the average time served will go from 62% to 80%.

Reduce the length of sentence by 25% – 2/10

No, no no. This means the very worst criminals who misbehave in prison and get no parole will be getting out 25% earlier. Mad.

Home detention will be established as a sentence in its own right – 6/10

Seems sensible, but careful it remains restricted to those not posing a risk.

New sentences of Electronically-Monitored Curfew. and Intensive Supervision – 6/10

Again looks sensible. However final judgement will depend on how it is used and applied. The worst case is a Government tight for money uses it Sentencing Commission to set guidelines which has convicts being given curfew instead of prison, despite the risk to the community.

Two new drug and alcohol treatment units in prisons – 8/10

Only qualification is how effective are the current units?

Overall the big negative is cutting sentences by 25%. This will see the very worst offenders out earlier. The back-down on parole is welcome, but has taken far too long.

The other stuff is all potentially beneficial, but it will depend on the implementation. And Corrections Department hasn’t exactly been a model of perfection in recent times.

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19 Responses to “Criminal Justice Changes”

  1. phillipjohn () says:

    New Zealand has the second highest prisoner per population rate in the world behind the US. We also have the highest levels of income inequality in the OECD, also behind the US. Are you strating to see a pattern emerging here?

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  2. phillipjohn () says:

    New Zealand has the second highest prisoner per population rate in the world behind the US. We also have the highest levels of income inequality in the OECD, also behind the US. Are you starting to see a pattern emerging here?

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  3. David Farrar () says:

    Hmmn lets see. You’re saying that if you get a payrise but your neighbour gets a bigger payrise, this will turn you into a rapist?

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  4. dennis () says:

    How can we have the highest levels of income inequality – with a labour government? I thought their expertise in stealing from those who earn and distributing it around would have fixed this by now. Better make sure they get a few more terms in office so it does get fixed.

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  5. Ross Bell () says:

    DPF – the 2 therapeutic communities (residential AOD treatment services) in prisons have resulted in a 16% decrease in re-offending. Those 2 programmes were run by a specialist AOD treatment agency (www.carenz.co.nz). Constrast those programmes with Corrections-run programmes which demonstrated, at best, no reduction in re-offending and, at worst, an increase in re-offending [those corrections-run programmes having since been scrapped].

    The government’s annoucement today is a good first step – but is only a small first step. With 80-odd% of all prisoners having AOD addiction issues, there’s gonna need to be a massive investment in treatment in prisons.

    Internation research shows that treatment more than pays for itself: with $7 saved (in other areas) for every $1 investment. A good buy in anyone’s terms.

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  6. David Farrar () says:

    Thanks Ross. Makes me feel better about my eight out of ten for a Government initiative – goes against the grain but makes sense that it is a partnership with the private sector :-)

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  7. Redbaiter () says:

    The reason NZ has such a high rate of imprisonment does not mean NZ judges are prison happy. It only means that NZers commit an inordinate number of crimes.

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  8. Redbaiter () says:

    Correction- The fact that NZ has such a high rate of imprisonment does not mean NZ judges are prison happy. It only means that NZers commit an inordinate number of crimes. Some countries have much higher ratio of jail sentences to criminal offences but are not high on the imprisonment tables because their actual crime rate is much lower than NZ’s.

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  9. McPhee () says:

    Its a blatant untruth to say in “2003 labour made 1/3 sentence possible for many crimes. ”
    Beacuse the National in 1993 or 1994 made 1/3 sentence possible for many crimes .
    You know this but , take a leaf from Taito Field , deliberately mislead!

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  10. PaulL () says:

    Any evidence to support NZ having the second highest level of income inequality in the OECD? Last I heard Australia had much higher income inequality, as did the UK. Part of the reason people go to Australia/the UK to earn more.

    I would have argued that the two largest contributions to our prison population are
    a) a failing policy towards drug and alcohol dependency, and to some extent the interlinked problem of mental illness. Quite simply our drugs policy is failing – any policy that criminalises something that up to 20% of the population are doing is not going to work, and is going to lead to large-scale imprisonment.

    b) a significant underclass whom don’t live by the standards that the rest of society is attempting to enforce. This underclass has correlation with both income and race, although I am not sure that either income or race are causative factors (income in particular might be a result of being in this group, rather than the other way around)

    Without concrete policies to address these the imprisonment rate will continue to rise. I see no evidence that the current government has any idea what to do about either of these. I see some evidence that National has some new ideas on b), I haven’t seen any evidence that they have any ideas or even talk about a).

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  11. Bob Howard () says:

    To Phillip John.
    Crime is not caused by income inequality. At least that is not a major factor. The reason so many countries are doing better than us is because they don’t have Maori populations. Lets call a spade a spade and forget about being PC. How many other OECD countries have the level of child abuse we have here among Maori?

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  12. Ross Bell () says:

    Hi again – I constructed a poor sentence in my earlier post. To be more accurate my first sentence should have read: prisoners in the therapeutic communities in two prisons had a 16% reduction in reoffending.

    PaulL: drug law reform in this country to going to be harder than criminal justice reform.

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  13. Ross Bell () says:

    Hi again – I constructed a poor sentence in my earlier post. To be more accurate my first sentence should have read: prisoners in the therapeutic communities in two prisons had a 16% reduction in reoffending.

    PaulL: drug law reform needed in this country is going to be much more difficult to achieve than criminal justice reform.

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  14. PaulL () says:

    Ross B,

    I didn’t know politicians were only supposed to deal with the easy problems :-)

    I think National should have a decent drugs policy – it is a waste of time pretending drug addiction and mental health issues, usually related, are not a significant cause of crime.

    If the guy you buy your drugs from is prepared to accept stolen goods when you run out of money, or you can’t hold down a job because you are so drug addled, it is obvious that the crime rate will go up.

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  15. TomTom () says:

    The high level of crime in this country is a direct result of people not taking “personal responsibility” for their actions.

    When a govt sets such low standards by deflecting blame, allowing corrupt practices by MP’s, refusing to hold people accountable and generally ignoring the publics wishes through their “social engineering” and other inane policies, then those with less honourable traits will see this as an endorsement of crime.

    The high level of crime could also reflect the criminals low regard for the justice system. They know they will either get a light sentence, be eligible for parole in 1/3rd of the sentence or not even be caught because of the stretched Police force.

    When you read about murderers with 89 previous convictions killing children and see a whole family stonewalling about two murders – you can honestly see why some people do it – because they honestly believe they will either get away with it or serve some pathetically short sentence in a “chalet” with TV, roast beef and underfloor heating.

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  16. PaulL () says:

    TomTom, I can see your explanation is attractive, because it gives a nice simple answer to the problem.

    I seem to recall a study (no link, sorry) that indicated that most perpetrators of violent crimes didn’t even think about the consequences of their actions – they either didn’t think they would get caught, or didn’t think beyond the next 5 seconds. For that group of individuals no deterrent will work – because they aren’t thinking of consequences.

    I agree that failing to punish minor crimes will lead some people down a path where they are very surprised when (if) they finally get punished for a crime, but I don’t think it is as simple as locking up all the criminals and then all the crime will disappear.

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  17. TomTom () says:

    Rehabilitation is an option for those that have “begun” their criminal careers – by catching them early there is hope that they can be turned away from the vicious cycle that will entail however for those that choose to murder, rape and violate the lives of law abiding citizens I see no option but to lock them away for as long as possible.

    I’m sure there is a saying – “Build more prisons and they will offend” – if not then I’ll adopt this as my own!

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  18. TomTom () says:

    Rehabilitation is an option for those that have “begun” their criminal careers – by catching them early there is hope that they can be turned away from the vicious cycle that will entail however for those that choose to murder, rape and violate the lives of law abiding citizens I see no option but to lock them away for as long as possible.

    I’m sure there is a saying – “Build more prisons and they will offend” – if not then I’ll adopt this as my own!

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  19. weizguy () says:

    I’ve got to call Bullshit on DPF and many of the commenters here.

    Redbaiter is making up stats. I’m not surprised though, as fabrication tends to be his M.O.

    DPF
    “Reduce the length of sentence by 25% – 2/10

    No, no no. This means the very worst criminals who misbehave in prison and get no parole will be getting out 25% earlier. Mad.”

    Rubbish – the very worst criminals will get life with longer no parole periods. You are either being deliberately dishonest, or genuinely ignorant. I’m assuming the former. Your attempt to paint this as a blanket reduction is nothing more than spin.

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