Youth Offenders

February 18th, 2012 at 12:38 pm by David Farrar

Simon Collins in the NZ Herald reports:

Professor Richie Poulton, director of a 40-year study which has followed 1000 people born in Dunedin in 1972-73, told the seminar that the study had found two separate groups of antisocial adolescents: an “early-onset” group whose bad behaviour began before age 5 and continued throughout their lives; and an “adolescent-onset” group who were led into bad behaviour by their peers but grew out of it.

“With the adolescent-onset group, do not do group interventions, because they are peer-driven. The last thing you should do is put them with other young people,” he said.

“So boot camps are wrong, prisons are wrong, for that group, and any other form of hanging out together, because essentially what you learn is a lot of new tricks.”

Judge Becroft said he was reassured by Professor Poulton’s talk because New Zealand’s youth justice system tried to keep young offenders out of the justice system where they would meet other offenders.

“Eighty per cent of the young offenders in New Zealand are not charged, they are dealt with by police diversion in the community. They do not come to court, which is the worst place for them,” he said.

“There is no country in the world that matches that rate, and it works best. It’s just good, firm, community-based creative intervention led by police and the community.

I agree that every effort should be made to keep youth offenders out of court, unless their crimes are so serious (murder or rape) that there is no alternative.

But going back to the work of Professor Poulton, youth offenders are broadly two categories – the early onset offenders and the adolescent onset offenders. For the latter group, the keep them away from court and prison prescription is best.

But for the early onset offenders, the reality may be that once a clear pattern has been established, then the needs of protecting the community take precedence.

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25 Responses to “Youth Offenders”

  1. tvb (4,418 comments) says:

    Protection of the community becomes paramount over the rights of the individual for hard core repeat offenders. There needs to be a much clearer statement of this in our bail laws and on the sentencing act

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  2. Fox (206 comments) says:

    Yes, funny how Becroft completely failed to mention the ‘early onset’ group. Goes to show that many arrogant judges in this country only see/hear what they want to hear….which is often exclusively material that backs up their own preconceived notions.

    Nothing new there then….

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  3. kowtow (8,439 comments) says:

    Professor Kowtow says this study ignores the largest group of adolescent offenders.

    The ones that never got caught and went on to become useful,productive members of society.

    Think about it next time you look in the mirror.

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  4. Pharmachick (235 comments) says:

    Got 2 relatives working in the NZ school system, one in a primary school (not a classroom teacher) and the other in an Intermediate.

    Both have been saying for years that you can tell Prof. Poulton’s “early-onset” kids as early as 5 or 6 years old. Both say “you can see it in their eyes, even at 5 or 6″ and neither call these kids “early onset youth offenders”. They call this small (but significant) group “just plain evil”.

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  5. Dexter (303 comments) says:

    “Their next biggest characteristic is that their families have some form of involvement with Child, Youth and Family – 79 per cent of them.”

    How much long term harm and cost would be if we increased our investment at the start giving CYF’s the resourcing, legislative powers and cultural change it needs to intervene early and aggressively with these kids before they hit the path of no return. And by that remove them once and permanently at birth from drop kick abusive parents.

    Instead of the culture it has now of trying to keep these kids within the ‘whanau’ and cultural group which just promotes intergenerational failure and abuse.

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  6. Dexter (303 comments) says:

    “They call this small (but significant) group “just plain evil”

    I think thats more a reflection on the ignorance of your relatives than the kids themselves.

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  7. Johnboy (16,516 comments) says:

    Young body parts would of course command a far higher price if we had a proper transplant auction system.

    Something for Trademe to consider once scalped concert tickets become taboo! :)

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  8. Viking2 (11,467 comments) says:

    People are a sum of everything that has happened to then since the day they wore born.
    3 to 5% will be naturally DNA driven evil. The rest is learned behavoir.

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  9. Scott Chris (6,135 comments) says:

    Pharmachick says:- “Both say “you can see it in their eyes, even at 5 or 6″”

    Dexter +1

    I had a Scottish Catholic Matron at prep school who was convinced I was devil’s spawn because I lied to her once. Never looked at me without disdain from that day onward.

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  10. Johnboy (16,516 comments) says:

    Not to mention, of course, the sad state of the pair of DNA strands the poor little shits inherited from their parents V2! :)

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  11. Johnboy (16,516 comments) says:

    What a perceptive woman she was Scotty! :) :)

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  12. Pharmachick (235 comments) says:

    We can argue about labeling kids “evil” and whether or not that is ignorant or not for ever. FWIW I think “evil” is a biblical term and I’m not religious, however; insofar as psychopaths go, I think the general concept may apply well.

    Regardless of the more “PC” way of talking about these kids, this is the way that some people at the coal face day-in-day-out in Decile 1 and 2 schools feel. At least one of the rellies has had the unfortunate experience of having a kid that was expelled from the school come back a few years later and commit terrible crimes.

    My point (probably badly expressed) is that these kids need early intervention at the highest levels. If a psychology Prof and school staff are recognizing the same group of kids (albeit expressing the problem in different ways) there is a need to do something about it. It is ridiculous (as others have commented) to just carry on with the same “keep it in the family” or “pretend young children don’t have significant psychiatric issues and give them suspended sentences” mentality.

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  13. Nostalgia-NZ (5,193 comments) says:

    Dexter 2.42

    I’ll vote for that.
    The saving long term would be many times greater.

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  14. nasska (11,478 comments) says:

    Pharmachick

    Regardless of the terminology have either of your relatives ever hazarded a guess at what percentage of school rolls these kids would represent? My reason for asking is that say 1% would be costly in terms of intervention but 5% would impose a cost that could never be sold to an electorate looking for cheap short term answers to long term problems.

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  15. calendar girl (1,232 comments) says:

    DPF: ” …. unless their crimes are so serious (murder or rape) that there is no alternative.”

    Why is it that murder and rape are referred to so readily as being different from or more serious than other criminal acts? There are crimes equally savage, often with serious ongoing consequences for victims, that should equally qualify youth offenders for Court appearances, and for imprisonment if convicted. Yet by regularly categorising murder and rape as the ultimate in serious crime, we tend to trivialise other abominations.

    Imagine, for example, a 17-year-old who holds up a shop with a baseball bat, hits the recalcitrant shopkeeper over the head and causes serious and permanent brain damage. In other word, leaves the victim a vegetable for life and the state paying for a lifetime of victim care. Not rape, not murder, but at least as serious in my book.

    Or another 17-year-old male who drives his boy racer recklessly and dangerously, and wipes out three people on a pedestrian crossing while leaving a fourth in a brain-damaged vegetative state, again with a lifetime care budget for the state to meet. Not rape, not murder (likely to be manslaughter at most), but at least as serious in my book.

    These sorts of crimes are realities in our society. As long as we continue casually to categorise murder and rape as the only truly serious crimes, we will go on downplaying the seriousness of other heinous criminal acts that occur in our midst. And we will continue setting aside accountability and normal criminal procedures in the Courts for perpetrators who happen to be youthful. Where in that enlightened strategy is there any semblance of ” …. the needs of protecting the community take precedence”?

    I reject the following opinion expressed by our host: “For the latter group [adolescent onset offenders], the keep them away from court and prison prescription is best”. That prescription is intended to shield almost all teenage criminals from Court unless they are charged with murder or rape. On the contrary, my view is that for a wider range of genuinely serious crimes “…. the needs of protecting the community take precedence”. Where is my cut-off line? I don’t know exactly. But it certainly goes significantly beyond murder and rape.

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  16. Inky_the_Red (759 comments) says:

    I think prison sentences or more than 3 days should be saved for only the worst offenders
    1. People who are violent to people who are more vulnerable than them (adults against children, men against women, the abled against disabled etc). Included in here are people who are still likely to repeat
    2. (almost) Anyone who commits murder
    3. Repeat offenders (and even then not all repeat dangerous drivers probably need it but sending some poor sod to prison for repeat possession of small quantities of drugs makes no sense)
    4. White collar criminals (every single one of them, no exceptions no home detention, no excuse of addiction)

    Most people in prison are more a nuisance to society than a threat to it. The bigger threat is isolating their families removing the major earner does little good. It is better to work so they do not commit crime.

    In the end tax payers pay thousand of dollars to lock people up. With so many people in prison and/or in the court system is it any wonder that the justice system makes mistakes.

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  17. Pharmachick (235 comments) says:

    nasska @ 4:07 pm:

    Yes. They both (independently mind you – I am aggregating their various conversations over the last few years) reckon that in the 1990’s they used to see it in 1/500 or 1/1000 kids (so that’s 0.2 – 0.1%), but they both also now say it is closer to 1/500 in general. Still in the 0.2% range, but you know that’s 0.2% based on a small sample size of almost exclusively decile 1 and 2 schools in 2 towns that if I said their names many here would say “oh, duh!” (or something equally rude). So you can probably average that nationwide to a much much lower percentage (maybe 0.1 or 0.05%) based on the general spread of the NZ population (quick calculation there, may be wrong on the actual %)

    Calendar girl @ 4:24 pm

    “Why is it that murder and rape are referred to so readily as being different from or more serious than other criminal acts? There are crimes equally savage, often with serious ongoing consequences for victims, that should equally qualify youth offenders for Court appearances, and for imprisonment if convicted. Yet by regularly categorising murder and rape as the ultimate in serious crime, we tend to trivialise other abominations.”

    Agree. But we need to start somewhere and, as I am very sure you will agree; murder and rape are the most abhorrent (perhaps along with “torture”) crimes we have. It is baby steps to start with these, but (i believe) it will yield immense rewards and then we can start to address the [slightly] lesser evils that are still very detrimental to a good and functioning society.

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  18. nasska (11,478 comments) says:

    Pharmachick

    Thank you. I thought it would be higher but the trouble these little buggers will cause further down the track would justify the costs of early intervention. I do wonder, however, in these PC times where “rights” trump all how those most in need could be targeted.

    Calendar Girl

    I doubt that most people who identify murder & rape as the most heinous crimes necessarily downgrade manslaughter & grievous assault. It’s more the reaction to being interrogated by dogooders intent on destroying any arguments suggesting introduction of meaningful punishments. Hesitate & give a considered answer & the socialists will interpret the hiatus as doubt & take the chance to move on to the next whacko item on the agenda.

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  19. MT_Tinman (3,184 comments) says:

    “So boot camps are wrong, prisons are wrong, for that group, and any other form of hanging out together, because essentially what you learn is a lot of new tricks.”

    I can think of one form of “hanging out together” that won’t teach them new tricks.

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  20. aitkenmike (94 comments) says:

    @ Scot Chris:

    I acknowledge that in some cases you may be right, but there are some kids that are really just evil. A guy my age who came from a good family with 2 working parents, and siblings who have gone onto to university education and solid careers was bullying kids in the sandpit at playschool at 4, was cutting people with the blade from a pencil sharpener at 7, excluded from primary school at 9, and had escaped from a couple of youth prisons and gone on armed robbery sprees by 16.

    They are very rare, but they are out there.

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  21. Viking2 (11,467 comments) says:

    http://media.smh.com.au/news/world-news/naked-man-steals-socks-from-walmart-store-3052862.html

    They are out there!

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  22. Griff (7,683 comments) says:

    When you are down the local shops and you here a fifteen year old tell a six year old girl
    Do that again and I wiill f@@@ you up the a@@@
    Or meet a solo mum who is educating her children with such pearls of wisdom as, It does not matter if you get nabed you are to young to be prosecuted
    These are like a lot of the incorrigible children it reflects the values the family instill on them.

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  23. backster (2,171 comments) says:

    I don’t know that a study restricted to the Dunedin of 40 years ago would be of little value and have no more than academic interest to the present day city of Dunedin let alone the rest of NZ. I would imagine that most Youth Offenders Nationally are aligned to gangs, I am all for giving them a chance the first time, but after that the punishment should fit the crime.

    INKY “Most people in prison are more a nuisance to society than a threat to it”…………….Nonsense. They virtually all fall into the categories for which you say they should be imprisoned.

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  24. Paulus (2,626 comments) says:

    Something like 45 years ago my sister was a primary teacher in a school near Kings Cross in London.
    She said then she could see in their primary years which boys would be in jail as teenagers, and which girls would be on the game as teenagers
    Is it so different today ? More freedom today perhaps.

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  25. centreforward (32 comments) says:

    If we’re serious about combatting youth crime then we need to get young people into productive work, training or education. In addition we need to do more to combat the causes of crime and poverty: family breakdown – sole parent households, unemployment, gangs, alcohol and drug abuse. The government that has the guts to tackle these issues is the government that will turn back the rising tide of rising crime, poverty and social disadvantage.

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