A third of lifers are out

July 17th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Marty Sharpe at Stuff reports:

A third of people sentenced to life in prison are in the community on .

Hardliners on crime say this makes a mockery of the term life imprisonment, but the Ministry of Justice says it is an accurate description as people on parole can be recalled to jail.

Figures issued by the Department of Corrections under the Official Information Act show that of the 719 people serving life sentences, 217 have been freed on parole.

I don’t think all murderers should spent the rest of their lives in jail. With the ability to now give lengthy non parole periods, and even life without parole, the sentencing regime is getting reasonably close to where I think it should be.

However what I would be interested on is whether those killers who are now out on parole, have offended since they were released.

Here’s the data I’d like to see.

  • Number of criminals sentenced to life
  • Number who have been given parole, and median and mean periods before parole
  • Mean and median period between being eligible for parole and getting parole, for those who got it
  • Of those given parole, how many have not breached any of their parole conditions
  • Of those given parole, how many breached a parole condition, but were not recalled
  • Of those given parole, how many breached a parole condition, but were recalled
  • Of those given parole, how many have committed further crimes
  • Of those given parole, how many have committed further serious (say strike eligible) crimes

Anyone able to provide or obtain that info? I could OIA it, but am in the Zion National Park in Utah at the moment, so would rather reduce keyboard time to a minimum!

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30 Responses to “A third of lifers are out”

  1. Rex Widerstrom (5,124 comments) says:

    All good and valid questions, DPF, the answers to which are needed before we can have a sensible discussion about sentencing, rehabilitation and parole.

    The only thing I’d do is split those who breached / reoffended / were recalled into two subgroups: those who were assessed as needing some form of rehabilitative program(s) and received the full complement of such programs during their incarceration, and those who were similarly assessed and were failed by the Department of Corrections by not having received all, or any, of the programs.

    Congratulations on parsing “breached” and “reoffended”. Those who froth at the mouth for tougher sentencing often wave around figures for parolees returned to jail without differentiating the reasons. You can breach parole (depending on your conditions) for being on licensed premises or failing a urine test for having drugs un your system etc. Victimless crimes (or even perfectly legal activities for non-parolees). Should someone have to return to jail for such breaches? Maybe. Do such breaches show the parole system should be scrapped? Quite the opposite.

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  2. lyndon (330 comments) says:

    FWIW, last I heard, not especially recently, the number of murderers who were released and killed again (or at least the number serving sentences for seperate murders) was in the order of three or so.

    (For clarity: life sentence as the system has understood it is basically life with the possibility of parole. ie you remain on parole, and recallable, for the rest of your life. Which is exactly the sense eg a fiften year sentence is a fifteen year sentence. Oh, except with non-life term they can keep you in after the end of your sentence if they want now.)

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  3. wikiriwhis business (3,269 comments) says:

    They go back to jail if they look wrong at someone. I would think most go back inside after a few weeks release at most.

    We won’t get those stats. And prison is even worse privatised

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  4. bringbackdemocracy (349 comments) says:

    The reoffending rate when capital punishment is used is very low, about zero!!!!

    The costs are much lower as well, and it improves the gene pool.

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  5. BlairM (2,265 comments) says:

    I think the only murderers who should be eligible to see daylight are those who engaged in heat-of-the-moment crimes of passion. And even then give them 20 years. There simply shouldn’t be that many murderers out on parole. Nostalgia-NZ should still be inside. Nobody should get the opportunity to do it twice.

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  6. metcalph (1,292 comments) says:

    FWIW, last I heard, not especially recently, the number of murderers who were released and killed again (or at least the number serving sentences for seperate murders) was in the order of three or so.

    There are about fourteen people who have two distinct convictions for murder and manslaughter in NZ. They include David Wayne Tamihere, Graeme Burton, Dennis Luke Rufus Marsh, William Johansson and Malcolm Francis

    http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/violent-crime/page-6

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  7. duggledog (1,102 comments) says:

    New Zealand doesn’t do punishment, we do ‘corrections’.

    From the bull shit ‘life sentence’ all the way down to home detention, restorative justice, community work, even work licences when you’ve been done for drink driving, they are all ‘do-able’ hence we have these clowns running around with multiple convictions.

    The system is a soft-cock joke. Commute some of these baboons on a so called ‘life sentence’ to China or better yet Myanmar for their prison time. Re-offending dramatically reduced

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  8. Simon (611 comments) says:

    Life imprisonment was supposed to mean life as that is what the State promised when removing the death penalty.

    More lies from the State.

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  9. Graeme Edgeler (3,216 comments) says:

    Life imprisonment was supposed to mean life as that is what the State promised when removing the death penalty.

    Nope.

    When the death penalty was removed, the minimum period before release could be considered was substantially lower than it is now, and judges didn’t even have the option of increasing it.

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  10. Graeme Edgeler (3,216 comments) says:

    Also, done.

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  11. metcalph (1,292 comments) says:

    I think the only murderers who should be eligible to see daylight are those who engaged in heat-of-the-moment crimes of passion

    So Jason Somerville and Clayton Weatherstone would be eligible to see daylight but a mercy killer should not?

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  12. dime (8,742 comments) says:

    “They go back to jail if they look wrong at someone. ” – bullshit.

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  13. peterwn (2,932 comments) says:

    metcalph – Genuine mercy killers (and those involved in a suicide pact where one party survives) are unlikely to be sentenced for life, the judge may use the s102 Sentencing Act exemption but must give written reaons.

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  14. Tom Jackson (2,225 comments) says:

    The reoffending rate when capital punishment is used is very low, about zero!!!!

    The sheer cost of making sure that innocent people don’t get executed makes capital punishment a non-starter.

    So Jason Somerville and Clayton Weatherstone would be eligible to see daylight but a mercy killer should not?

    Somerville attended my high school for a while. He’s the saddest kid I ever saw – a victim of horrific abuse. He was underfed and used to borrow cook books from the school library just to look at pictures of food. If he had experienced a normal upbringing, I doubt he’d be where he is now. But the guy is a time bomb, and should probably never be released.

    Weatherstone appears to be a psychopath. Somerville wasn’t like that when I knew him.

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  15. Judith (5,644 comments) says:

    Whenever there is a long sentence with a finite period, it is necessary to have parole.

    If you make an offender serve the entire period of their sentence, then the minute they are released you have no authority over them.

    Whilst on parole you can monitor them, including who they can have contact, even down to whether they can drink alcohol, have an internet connection and so on – depending of course on their type of crime.

    To release a prisoner straight from a long sentence of imprisonment is extremely dangerous if there is no legal means of supervising them. The stress of being released into a community that they have been out of for perhaps 10-20 years makes it almost certain that many will re-offend.

    I think what is needed is perhaps longer sentences where the custodial period is increased but as long as that person has the ability to one day be released from prison, parole should always be mandatory, at least until such time as it is clear the offender is no longer a danger to society – that is, they have demonstrated they have assimilated back into the community and are prepared to live in a lawful manner.

    Just think of the beast of Blenheim, without parole conditions he would have been released into the community, with no way of controlling him.

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  16. Tom Jackson (2,225 comments) says:

    The system is a soft-cock joke.

    IIRC New Zealand has a really high rate of imprisonment. Nothing like the looney Yanks, but very high by world standards.

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  17. Judith (5,644 comments) says:

    Tom Jackson (776) Says:
    July 17th, 2013 at 3:33 pm
    ——————————

    I would agree with you. Weatherstone exhibits many of the characteristics of a psychopath, IMO it is unlikely he will ever be safe to live among the community. Psychopaths are the one type of people that cannot be rehabilitated – no matter what you do for them or to them.

    Pedophiles are similar, in that they will always have the sexual attraction to the immature body, ie. always be a pedophile, however, there are times with certain therapy that they learn to control their behaviour and don’t reoffend.

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  18. Judith (5,644 comments) says:

    Tom Jackson (777) Says:
    July 17th, 2013 at 3:34 pm
    —————————————

    You may be interested in this report – it gives the statistics for imprisonment.

    http://www.rethinking.org.nz/assets/Newsletter_PDF/Issue_101/Reducing_Imprisonment.pdf

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  19. flipper (3,261 comments) says:

    Some useful and informed comment above, but sadly, and as always, some crap.
    I wish people would deal with the world as it is, rather than what they wish, however misguided.

    “Re-offending” is one thing, and irrelevant for the purposes of this discussion, unless it involves a serious crime.

    Recall is another.

    The reality is that the recall rate (cannot recall precise %), is almost ZERO. Recall for getting a parking ticket… or some irrelevant other offence?
    Grow up children.

    Look at it this way.
    At $80,000 – $90,000 + pa, parole is much much cheaper than continued incarceration, even allowing for the fact that some are never able to secure paid employment.

    But the Flat Earthers will always maintain that should occur , or that there should be death for A A Thomas, D. Bain, et al.

    Stupid F/wits.

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  20. dave_c_ (205 comments) says:

    Flipper – Are you trying to save a few bucks, or serious about saving the law abiding citizen from assholes who should be locked up and the key thrown away.
    If some think that serving a percentage of the sentence is ok, then why dont we change things, so that murder is say 15 years, but there is no parole prior to that ! Rape = 15 years.. etc
    Only in this manner will the public perceive that justice is being administered correctly, and we mean what we say when we are told murder=15 years !

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  21. nasska (9,471 comments) says:

    Flipper

    I’m against the death penalty for only one reason…..that is the possibility that our justice system may get it wrong. Once someone has been executed it’s a bit off to just say “bad luck” & hope that we get it right in future.

    After that we part company. In other than exceptional circumstances life should mean for the full term of a murderer’s earthly existence….no remission, no parole.

    My reasons are twofold. As Judith has well pointed out no rehabilitation is likely to lower the risk a psychopath poses to society. Eg. Weatherspoon, McDonald Burton & Bell. My second consideration is that by interpreting a life sentence as ten or so years (plus parole) we have deemed the victim’s life to be nearly worthless.

    Not often will I say “to hell with the cost” when the state agencies are spending my tax dollars. This however, is one case where I’m happy to pay up.

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  22. Tom Jackson (2,225 comments) says:

    Thanks Judith.

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  23. Tom Jackson (2,225 comments) says:

    Flipper – Are you trying to save a few bucks, or serious about saving the law abiding citizen from assholes who should be locked up and the key thrown away.

    Financial crime has a worse impact than aggravated assault, but attracts more lenient punishment.

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  24. Mark (1,301 comments) says:

    Why on earth is this statistic surprising. Life sentences span 10-15 years with the brutal murders attracting longer non parole periods. At some point these offenders are released on parole and one assumes that so long as they do not breach their parole conditions they can remain out of prison. Journalist Marty Sharpe must have been a fucking genius to work this out all on his own, just another example of a journalist trying to create news out of something that is hardly news at all.

    The more interesting report may have been on the re-offending rate of those who are out on parole following being convicted of murder.

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  25. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    The big outrage in CHCH at the moment is about this tosser, Swann who stole 17 million from the Otago district health board..He is out and about after about three years in a min security prison..A small amount of the money has been recouped but there is about 13/14 million outstanding..Where is this money? Why hasn’t his wife been hit up? How did he get parole first time before the board? He is going to be living in a posh mansion in Governors bay , indoor pool etc..
    Common garden criminals ie poor people seldom get parole first time up. What is his connection to David Saunders?
    Contrast this with our Tahitian Prince who stole a similar amount from the health board in Queensland and got 14 years..he won’t be in ”nice” prison like Rolleston.
    And this govt is talking about cutting health services..many are threadbare in CHCH already.
    Many murderers kill under the influence of alcohol or kill as a crime of passion…This tosser went to a lot of effort to rip off so many millions and now he seems to be telling everyone that if you are a white collar crim , crime certainly pays. In fact it pays handsomely.

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  26. Rex Widerstrom (5,124 comments) says:

    Judith points out:

    To release a prisoner straight from a long sentence of imprisonment is extremely dangerous if there is no legal means of supervising them. The stress of being released into a community that they have been out of for perhaps 10-20 years makes it almost certain that many will re-offend.

    One of the main reasons I support private prisons is that government can then institute payment for results, and specify that one result is reduced recidivism. That then incentivises the prison operator to provide extensive support to the released prisoner – extending, in the UK at least, to help with housing, a job etc – to ensure they remain out of jail. It’s win-win-win (prison operator, prisoner and taxpayer).

    It’s relatively new concept so not a lot of research, but Serco have some studies available here which demonstrate it works.

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  27. Steve (North Shore) (4,313 comments) says:

    Geeze there are a lot of soft cocks these days.
    I see the issue in another way:
    Only 2/3rds of those with a life sentence are still in the hinaki

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  28. tristanb (1,133 comments) says:

    Someone gets pissed off with someone and murders them. Do people really think that 15 years is sufficient punishment? They’ve taken someone’s life, and hurt the family and friends of that person more than words can describe.

    I don’t care that they won’t reoffend. They’ve done something so cruel that they do not deserve to see the light of day again.

    The same with violent rapists (absolutely disgusting what that nutter lawyer said about Liam Reid) and other criminals.

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  29. BlairM (2,265 comments) says:

    I think the only murderers who should be eligible to see daylight are those who engaged in heat-of-the-moment crimes of passion

    So Jason Somerville and Clayton Weatherstone would be eligible to see daylight but a mercy killer should not?

    metcalph – Someone should take you to a Logic 101 class and draw you a few Venn diagrams. There are always mitigating circumstances to take into account. I was trying to suggest a minimum standard, not a basis for clemency. The end result of murder is always the same. In Weatherstone’s case, it was premeditated, so my standard would not apply and he should be put away for life. I’m not sure why you want to bring mercy killing into this, and anyway, there is no such thing.

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  30. goldnkiwi (641 comments) says:

    Unfortunately whoever kills a murderer becomes a cold blooded murderer themselves.

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