No extra time for assaulting guards

May 22nd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A dangerous high-security prisoner who killed a Corrections officer has been sentenced for assaulting two more but will spend no extra time in prison, a penalty the prison guards’ union calls disgraceful.

Latu Kepu was already serving a jail sentence for the manslaughter of prison guard Jason Palmer when he attacked two other guards in separate incidents last October.

Kepu was sentenced at the North Shore District Court yesterday after previously pleading guilty to two charges of assault.

Judge Philippa Sinclair sentenced him to seven months in prison, to be served concurrently. That means Kepu will not have time added on to his sentence and is still eligible for parole in 2015 on his manslaughter conviction.

Well that will teach him a lesson. Not a single extra day in prison for bashing two prison guards up.

It is disgraceful. This makes life even more dangerous for prison guards if prisoners see they can bash them up and not get any extra penalty.

UPDATE: The disgrace it seems is the Herald story, not the sentence. Whale Oil blogs an e-mail from the Ministry of Justice:

In fact, Latu Kepa was sentenced yesterday in the North Shore Court on a s9 Summary Offences Act assault and a s196 Crimes Act assault (both on prison guards) to 7 months imprisonment cumulatively on his present sentence of Manslaughter. I have checked the court file, the prison warrant and listened to the court recording at the relevant part and all of them refer to a cumulative sentence.

I’m sorry to say the Corrections Association also seems to have been misinformed : “At a minimum, the seven-month sentence should have been cumulative to the manslaughter sentence, Mr Hanlon said.”

Please let me know if you require any further assistance,

Warm regards,

Sonja.

Sonja de Friez.
Director of Community Engagement, District Courts.

That is a huge error by the Herald to get the main fact of the story wrong. My regrets that I assumed the story was correct in criticizing the sentence.

The Herald have removed their story from their website. I trust it will be replaced by an apology.

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Guest Post: David Garrett on crime levels

May 21st, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by David Garrett:

Still plenty of crime about

This weeks HoS featured a  story on falling crime. The gist of it was that crime was at its lowest since 1982;  we are all victims of manufactured anxiety about crime , and in fact we have never had it so good. The story featured a neat little graph which showed that  “recorded offences” were about the same – actually a little lower – than  they were in 1982. Sadly neither the story nor the graph tells the whole story.

For example, if the graph covered the period back to 1972, it would show a dramatic explosion in crime between then and 1982, when the reassuring line on the graph in the story  begins. If the graph went still further back, it would show violent crime – including  homicide – pretty much as a flat line from the beginning of last century until about 1972, when violent crime began to grow exponentially.

The story uses the “crimes per 10,000 of population” measure, which allows us to compare New York with New Plymouth – the rates are comparable and meaningful   whatever the populations compared. For most of the 20th century, our homicide rate was about 0.5 per 100,000 per year. It is now about three times that – substantially less than 20 years ago it is true, but still three times higher than it was fifty or sixty years ago.

The graph in Sunday’s story  showed total offences, and does indeed show an encouraging fall since 2010 – but more about that in a moment. If the graph had shown violent  crimes only, the picture would not have been anything like as rosy; violent crime has declined much less since its peak in the early 90’s than “recorded crime” generally,  a notoriously unreliable stat, since to be “recorded”, someone has to bother reporting it.

The most interesting thing about the story for me was the sharp drop in crime since 2009 – about the time the National led government moved, albeit rather timidly, away from the “criminals are victims too” policies we had been following for the past 40 years or more. 2009-10 saw  small changes in bail laws, more recalls for breaches of parole, and of course “three strikes”, the effects of which are only now really beginning to be felt.

The liberal academics – something of a tautology since with very few exceptions we have no other kind – will of course ascribe the sharp drop in crime from 2009 to something other  than the factors I have cited. Anything will do for them, so long as it’s not  more punative measures. The current theory is  that removing lead in petrol twenty years ago has caused crime to drop now.

To those who say that to aim for the kind of safe society we once had is a reactionary pipedream, I say this: read up on the precipitate drop in crime in New York since a much more dramatic policy change  in the early 90’s than we have seen began. Back then, there were about 4000 homicides in New York City every year, and the city was widely regarded as “ungovernable”.

Mayor Guiliani refused to accept that, and the New York Police Department were directed to “take back the city”, block by block.  Now, homicides in NYC number in the hundreds annually – about the same level as in the 1960’s – rather than the thousands.  The population hasn’t changed.

We can do the same. Smarter and more comprehensive policing – “broken windows” New Zealand style if you like – has caused crime to plummet in South Auckland,  long our most crime ridden district. I look forward to the day when some fresh faced reporter can show a graph extending back to 1972, or even 1952, and say we now have the same rate of violent crime as we did then. It can be done. We just need the will to continue down the path we tentatively embarked on three years ago.

The point David makes about violent crime being a better indicator than overall crime is one I have often made also.

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Prisons – within the Walls

May 13th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

JustSpeak in Auckland have a forum this Wednesday at 6.30 pm at the Alleluya Cafe in St Kevin’s Arcade on K Road.

JustSpeak invites you to the second of the three-part Beyond Prisons series of discussions looking at New Zealand’s prison system and the possibilities beyond incarceration.

Following on from our first forum, which focused on the wider societal impact of prisons, this forum seeks to better understand life inside of prisons. The daily realities of prisons are largely hidden from the general public. This forum will examine the impact of imprisonment on the individual and those closest to them.

We will hear from four panelists, all of whom have themselves experienced life within the walls or worked closely with prisoners:

- Denis Bumbury, a counsellor therapist and currently a chaplain at Mt Eden Prison
- Lois Naera, a social worker with Pillars, an organisation that works with the children of prisoners;
- Mike Templeton, a former prisoner who now works with prisoners; and
- Steve Hall, Director of Reducing Re-Offending for Serco NZ, the company that holds the contract for Mt Eden Corrections Facility.

This forum will be a rare opportunity to hear stories and insights from those who have been subject to incarceration and those working within prisons, including their thoughts on whether prisons fulfil their four primary functions: punish, deter, protect and rehabilitate.

There will also be an opportunity to ask the speakers questions.

As usual, entry is free and light refreshments will be provided – all welcome.

I was on a panel at a similar forum last week, discussing the recent law change around prisoner voting rights, and thought it was a good discussion (even though I was in a very distinct minority).

I am of the view that some prisoners will not respond to rehabilitation until age gets the better of them (and they are sadly the majority) but there are a significant number who will and can be rehabilitated and it would be fascinating to hear some views from the frontline, including Serco’s.

If you want to go along, just RSVP on Facebook (or just turn up).

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The Press on a serious offenders register

May 8th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

The suggestion by the Minister of Justice, Judith Collins, that public registers be set up to provide open and easy access to the criminal record of serious offenders is one that will be welcomed by many people. Such information is widely and freely available already from the proliferation in the last decade or so of websites including news and information sites, and by organisations like the Sensible Sentencing Trust. But, because of the limited resources of those news and other organisations, the information those sites contain is inevitably piecemeal and patchy. An authoritative and accurate official record would plainly be of much greater benefit.

I agree. Perhaps the threshold for inclusion could be a strike offence?

Criminal convictions are already a matter of public record. Access to the record, however, is not easy. The police, for instance, in most circumstances cannot, because of rules governing the disclosure of information from police computers and concerns about privacy, reveal them. A properly maintained official register would cut through the thicket of difficulties to provide the information more readily.

It may be argued that a register of convictions, by being forever available on the internet, would make it harder for a criminal to live down his or her past and become rehabilitated. The fact is that that is occurring to a certain extent anyway. The register, as Collins suggests it, would be concerned only with serious offences, the kinds of things already covered by news media and suchlike websites. Those websites are very long-lived and can be searched without much trouble by Google. But the media cannot cover everything, even serious crime. An official register would remove the randomness in them in that it would cover all serious offences, not just those the media deem newsworthy, and it should be less subject to error.

If the Government does not set up a register, then those run by groups such as the SST will become more and more authoritative in the absence of anything else.

It may also help deter offending. Contrary to popular opinion, criminals respond to incentives as much as anyone else. Offenders, once they come to know that it will not be so easy to conceal their past crimes, will be less inclined to commit them in the first place.

Fewer crimes and fewer victims would be a good thing.

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Why a register just for those deported?

May 7th, 2013 at 7:01 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government could set up a public register of serious criminals deported from Australia, under drastic planned law changes to improve trans-Tasman information sharing.

The murder of Christchurch teenager Jade Bayliss has “really focused everyone’s minds” on ensuring the new law becomes a reality, Justice Murther inister Judith Collins told The Press last night.

It’s a good idea, and we have seen the tragic consequences of not having this info. But why not a register of all serious criminals? Criminal convictions are not private – they are a matter of public record and should be publicly available.

Documents reveal a list of pros and cons for making the details about serious criminals publicly available.

A public register could impact on an individual’s right to a fair trial if information about previous offences could be accessed.

However, that was countered by the potential for improved public safety.

If an individual is charged with a further offence, then the Govt can just remove their entry during the trial. Having a Govt register actually makes it easier to do this, than having private groups such as the SST having to run their own registers.

Last month The Press revealed Bayliss approached police with concerns about Jeremy George McLaughlin, 35, four days before he strangled her 13-year-old daughter Jade and torched their Barrington St home in November 2011.

She was unaware McLaughlin spent time in jail for killing Perth teenager Phillip Vidot in 1995 before he was deported back to New Zealand in 2001.

She was given trespass papers to serve against McLaughlin if he showed up at her home.

However, police were unable to tell her the details of the killer’s past because of constraints about what they can reveal about a person’s criminal history.

Bayliss has pledged to campaign for better access to information about serious criminals.

How heart breaking that she even asked Police, and the dumb law meant they could not tell her. Public safety must come first.

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Strike Two

April 29th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The controversial “three strikes” legislation has seen a young man jailed without parole and warned that if he steals another skateboard, hat or cellphone he will spend 14 years behind bars.

In issuing Elijah Akeem Whaanga, 21, his second strike, Judge Tony Adeane told the Hastings man his two “street muggings” that netted “trophies of minimal value” meant his outlook was now “bleak in the extreme”.

“When you next steal a hat or a cellphone or a jacket or a skateboard you will be sent to the High Court and there you will be sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment without parole,” Judge Adeane said.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said the case showed the law was working. Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar agreed, saying the sentence of two-and-a-half years’ jail with no parole was “fantastic”. 

Victoria University criminology professor John Pratt said the case “highlighted fundamental problems” with the law.

“Was this really the type of offender that the three strikes law was meant to protect us from?”

Whaanga’s offending stretches back to 2006, including burglary, theft, resisting arrest and indecent assault. He served a short prison sentence in early 2010.

Stealing is not a strike offence, but aggravated robbery is. From what I can see Mr Whaanga has had four strike offences so far – but two before the legislation was passed.

If he does not commit any more strike offences, then he won’t get the maximum sentence with no parole.

I’ll freely say that Whaanga doesn’t appear to be the worst criminal out there, but I don’t judge a policy on sole cases. And if he is stupid enough to get a third strike, then the Judge does have discretion to make him eligible for parole if it would be manifestly unjust not to do so. So if he does another aggravated robbery and gets the maximum 14 years, a Judge could still make him eligible for parole after four years and eight months.

By the end of last month there were 2684 offenders on their first strike and 17 on their second strike.

This may be because it is early days, but the very small number of second strikes compared to first strikes *might* mean that the hoped for deterrent effect is working.

In around five to ten years we will get some fascinating data looking at reoffending rates before and after the three strikes law. That is if Labour and Greens do not repeal it before then – as they have promised to do.

UPDATE: Commenters have said that Mr Whaanga has a total of 72 previous convictions, so shorter sentences do not seem to have worked with him.

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Labour MPs focusing on the big issues

April 25th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Three Labour MPs have met career criminal Arthur Taylor to discuss his court battle to overturn a prison smoking ban.

Justice spokesman Andrew Little, police and corrections spokesman Kris Faafoi and Darien Fenton, who holds the shadow labour portfolio, visited Paremoremo jail yesterday.

Taylor, 56, has racked up more than 130 convictions, including armed robbery, kidnapping and escaping from prison.

Mr Little said the MPs agreed to visit to discuss Taylor’s legal bid to reverse the smoking ban at the prison.

Three MPs? Why don’t they have the entire caucus meet with Taylor.

So now all it takes to get three Labour MPs to meet with you is:

  • Armed robbery x 4
  • Theft
  • Fraud
  • Burglary
  • Escaping custody
  • Attempting to pervert the course of justice
  • Possession of various drugs
  • Possessing firearms and ammunition
  • Rceiving stolen property
  • Conspired to sell methamphetamine

And his grievance is that he can not smoke in prison anymore.

I do hope Labour will soon release their policy on how Mr Taylor’s human rights have been breached, as soon as they have finished nationalising the electrcity industry.

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The SST vision

April 19th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald profiles the Sensible Sentencing Trust and details their policy wishlist. Some good issues to debate.

no bail for anyone facing a violent offence

I think that is a step too far. I think bail is too easy to get, and far too many offences are done by people on bail. But if you are a first time offender, there is a presumption of innocence.

fewer chances to apply for bail having once been rejected

Not sure how many chances there are, but I agree they should be few.

appeals to carry a punitive cost if they fail, so offenders who appeal and lose go to jail for longer

I agree with the principle that there should be some incentive not to have appeals in cases where there is no chance of success – such as cases where they are caught red handed.

sentences for multiple crimes to be served end on end rather than together

I think cumulative sentences would be a step too far.

prior criminal convictions to be revealed as evidence in court and considered as adding weight to guilt

I don’t think they should be considered as adding weight but I think in the Internet age it will prove impossible to keep previous convictions hidden. I’d have them public, but Judges should warn to judge a case on the facts only.

performance reviews for judges and the ability to sack those who did not meet standards

I think collection of data on decisions of Judges is a good thing, but Judges should only be sacked for misconduct – not for making unpopular decisions.

simpler sentencing laws because the current laws have been developed to deliberately confuse the public.

Need to know details to comment.

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An interesting sentencing case

April 15th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald has been in court, and has reported on five cases where they summarise the case, tell you what sentence the person got, and ask people what sentence they would have given.

The first case is of Nathan Wynd who followed a workmate, kicked him in the head, knocked him to the ground, punched his face several times and rubbed an empty beer bottle in his face. Who knows where it may have ended if the Police had not walked by.

They cite five aggravating features – violence to the head, a bottle as a weapon, high harm to the victim, serious injuries that resulted in hospital treatment and premeditation. The only mitigating issue was the early guilty plea (tempered by the fact the Police caught him doing it).

They say that the starting point for an offence of this type is two years nine months, yet despite the five aggravating features he got just two years. He did also get a first strike which I think will be a significant deterrent.

The maximum sentence possible is seven years. You wonder what it would take to get that?

You can vote on what sentence you would have given. I went for three years. However 42% picked five or more years and only 22% picked two years or less. 34% chose three or four years.

I can’t get the other four cases to load. It would be interesting to see for those the difference between sentences given and the most common sentences chosen by the readers.

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Beware of simple comparisons

April 13th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Infographic-4-Odds-of-Prosecution

Just Speak have produced the infographic above.

The Herald reports:

Last night, Mrs Tolley said the JustSpeak group’s research had limitations as the figures did not show the number of offenders, the number of repeat offenders, the seriousness of the offence or an offender’s criminal history.

It is an interesting infographic, but as Anne Tolley says you can’t draw conclusions from it.

What I’d be interested to see is say a comparison by ethnicity for first-time offenders of the same age for the same offence.

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2012 Crime stats

April 2nd, 2013 at 12:10 pm by David Farrar

Pretty good news in the 2012 crime stats, just released:

  • Homicides down 18.1%
  • Assaults rate down 3.4%
  • Sexual assaults up 1.3%
  • Robberies down 10.1%
  • Burglaries down 11.1%
  • Theft down 11.8%

The overall number of crimes is down 7.4% and the crime rate is down 8.0%. Note however the overall rate is a fairly un-useful figure as it treats all crimes as equal magnitude.

I’ve done some quick graphs showing the level of recorded offences and the crime rates for the major categories, since 1996. A variety of stories.

homicides

Thankfully not a large number of homicides, so changes may not be significant. But a nice trend down in the last three years.

Assaults

Assaults and violent offences were definitely trending up until 2009, and have been reducing over the last three years.

Sexual Assaults

Sadly sexual assaults is the one area that has not reduced. This may be due to greater reporting levels.

Thefts

Thefts have been going down pretty constantly for the last 16 years.

Burglaries

Burglaries were pretty constant, but have also started to trend down.

Robberies

Robberies really shot up around a decade ago, then started to reduce from 2006 and decrease more rapidly since 2008.

Crimes

Again the overall rate is not that useful a number but still psychologically important to some. The overall crime rate dropped from 1996 to 2004, and then increased from 2004 to 2009. Since 2009 it has dropped pretty significantly. It is 18.9% lower than three years ago.

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Crime & Sentencing stats

March 27th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Judith Collins has announced:

The Conviction and Sentencing Statistics, published on the Statistics New Zealand website, show 98,783 people appeared in court in 2012, down 7 per cent from 2011 and 22 per cent from 2009.

That is good. Of course it is probably due to a mixture of reduced offending, and giving out more cautions for minor offences.

The number of people charged with a violent offence has dropped 17 per cent over the last four years, after steadily increasing between 2004 and 2009.

I always tend to focus on the violent crime stats as they are the ones most likely to be reported. Other areas of crime such as drugs or traffic are somewhat dependent on how proactive the Police are. That drop in violent crime does reverse the trend increase.

74 per cent of the people charged in court are convicted, and 10 per cent of those are sent to prison. For every 10,000 people in New Zealand, 22 were sentenced to prison in 2012 compared with 25 in 2011.

Interesting stats on the 74% conviction rate. I wonder what it is for those who plead not guilty?

Along with the general reduction in youth convictions, the number of children and young people convicted in an adult court for serious offences has dropped from 500 to 199 in the last five years. Children and young people now make up less than 3 per cent of the total people charged in court in New Zealand.

“Fewer children and young people coming before our courts is an encouraging sign. We know that a key to reducing crime is to stop young people entering the court and justice system in the first place,” Ms Collins says.

That is also very welcome. Of interest will be how many offences are being committed by young people also.

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The bail madness

March 4th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Bail should be granted to most people awaiting trial, as  they are innocent until proven guilty. Obviously not for the most serious cases such as murder.

But when someone has a history of offending on bail, or multiple previous convictions – then sticking them out on bail is just a recipe for creating further victims of crime. Especially that often any additional offences while on bail will not lead to greater punishment.

Now look at this case reported by Anna Leask:

A teenager on bail when he robbed an 81-year-old woman, breaking her hip and wrist and disabling her for life, has been sentenced to home detention.

But Darren Fidow’s elderly victim wants him jailed and is demanding a harsher sentence.

Patricia Sutcliffe’s hip and wrist were badly broken when she was robbed in 2011. She was in hospital for more than three months, is in constant pain and can no longer walk without a crutch.

Auckland Crown Solicitor Simon Moore, QC, is considering an appeal. The Crown originally sought a sentence of more than five years’ jail.

The sentence is bad enough. But look at the history.

Fidow was on bail facing a burglary charge when he robbed her.

In June 2011, Fidow was charged with aggravated robbery. He appeared in court and was released on bail.

1st time.

Fidow was arrested again in February last year for breaching supervision conditions and was warned and re-bailed.

2nd time.

He was also arrested in June after failing to appear in court. He was remanded in custody after evading police for several months, but released again in July on electronic bail.

3rd time.

Days later, after a scheduled court appearance, Fidow was caught burgling another house. This time he was remanded in custody, but in October, he was bailed again to Odyssey House, for alcohol abuse treatment.

4th time.

What is the bet he breaches his home detention?

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Bail should not be repeated if broken

February 20th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Anna Leask at NZ Herald reports:

Doctors later said the severity of Mike’s head injuries was usually only seen in car-crash victims – they had never seen it in an assault before.

Three men were arrested soon after and charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent. The Herald has chosen not to name them for legal reasons.

Two of the men were already on bail and jointly facing charges, including assault with intent to injure and possession of a knife. After the alleged assault on Mike, one was remanded in custody and the other re-bailed.

Bail is often appropriate when people are first charged as they have not yet been found guilty (if they are). But if you are on bail and get charged again then bail should not occur unless there are exceptional circumstances.

The third man was also remanded in custody but bailed after a successful High Court appeal. He was arrested again in January for failing to appear in court and then granted bail again until his next appearance.

And if you fail to turn up to court, you should also lose the right to bail.

The family believed that anyone charged with a violent offence should be kept in custody until their trial to prevent any further attacks.

That is a step too far. But if they have a history of offending or were already on bail when further alleged offending occurs – then bail should not occur.

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A good Coroner’s recommendation

February 20th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee has backed a coroner’s call to make prisoners serve their driving bans after they are freed, not while they are still in jail.

Coroner Garry Evans’ recommendation is contained in his report into the death of a young woman in a car crash caused by a paroled criminal who was on a witness protection programme at the time.

Debbie Ashton, 20, died when repeat driving offender Jonathan Barclay, a former P addict, smashed into her car while speeding and drunk, near Nelson in December 2006.

Barclay has twice served out driving bans while in prison for more serious offending. Both times he has gone on to crash into other people.

Seems like a no brainer to me.

In a statement last night, Mr Brownlee said he had asked officials from the justice and transport ministries to look into the recommendation. Any change would require an amendment to legislation, which meant it would have to be put before Parliament.

Will the Greens oppose it as they could argue it punishes the criminal twice?

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Throw the key away

February 13th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A man convicted of multiple charges made a rude gesture to a judge after he was sentenced to prison.

Joel Twain McVay, 34, held up his middle finger to the judge, told him he would not follow some of his sentence, and swore at a police officer after his sentencing in the Blenheim District Court yesterday.

A pretty good sign he will not stop offending.

McVay was sentenced on his fourth drink-driving conviction and 19th conviction for driving while disqualified, as well as burning his partner’s belongings and assaulting her.

The Police should wait outside his place and just arrest him as he jumps in a car.

Judge Richard Russell said it was McVay’s 10th assault conviction. He sentenced him to two years and one month in prison after he admitted charges of refusing to give a blood sample, driving while disqualified, assault and wilful damage.

Only 25 months? His 10th assault conviction.

I’m not sure if his type of assault was serious enough to get a strike – but I hope so in the sense that he look to be a prime candidate for getting the maximum sentence with no parole. A lot fewer people will end up assaulted by him that way.

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Dom Post on prison work

February 4th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

A good prison system should have three functions. It should keep the public safe from dangerous criminals, punish those who have seriously or repeatedly broken the law and rehabilitate offenders.

By and large, New Zealand’s penal system does the first two reasonably well. When it comes to the third, it has been an abject failure. …

But while the prison system is good at keeping inmates locked up – escapes are rare – it is not so good at preparing them to reintegrate back into society once they are released. The recidivism rate among former inmates is alarmingly high. Nearly 40 per cent of those freed from jail each year are back inside within 24 months of their release. …

That is why the Government’s to investigate the merits of “working prisons” should have the support of every party in Parliament.

Under the scheme, every inmate at Tongariro and Auckland Women’s prisons will be engaged in some type of work or rehabilitation activity for 40 hours a week. The scheme is already running at Christchurch’s Rolleston Prison, which has a contract with Housing New Zealand to refurbish earthquake-damaged properties.

Provided the expansion is carefully planned to ensure jobs are not taken away from workers in the community, it could have a significant effect. According to the Government’s figures, reoffending rates for inmates on Release to Work programmes are 16 per cent lower than for those who are not, and prisoners who undertake work in jails per cent lower.

Yet the Herald said the scheme will do more harm than good!

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A bizarre editorial

February 1st, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial is rather bizarre. The headline is:

Work in jail scheme will do more harm than good

Now that is a very definitive statement. It is not saying there are complications, or it *may* do more harm than good. It is a definitive statement that it will definitely do more harm than good.

Yet I read the entire editorial, and they don’t actually produce anything to back up the assertion. They talk about the complications and the extra costs that may be incurred, but that is again vastly different from stating outright that having additional working prisons will do more harm than good.

Now let us look at what the Herald says is so awful:

Ms Tolley has conceded the plan will require “significant infrastructure upgrades”.

Presumably she is referring to the workplace equipment that will need to be installed in prisons. The costs do not, however, end there. There is the expense involved in work training and tuition for the inmates.

Oh my God. We will spend money on training and tuition for prisoners. How awful.

I’m skeptical of many types of government spending.  There’s a lot of programmes I would personally cut, to allow a reduction in taxes. But you know I don’t have a huge problem with training and tuition for prisoners.

Already, however, the British Prison Officers Association has complained that this is exploitative of prisoners and risks damaging the wider economy. “We have concerns about simply using prisoners as cheap labour for companies to cut their costs,” it has said. That cutting means, inevitably, that in some cases prisoners are taking the jobs of people in the community.

That is a potential concern, but we already have some work being done. The challenge is making sure the work done has minimal impact on other jobs. But again the editorial provides no substance to back up their assertion the expansion of work in prisons will “do more harm than good”.

Additionally, there is the risk that an increasing emphasis on getting inmates into work will lessen that on education, employment training and drug and alcohol addiction treatment programmes. This rehabilitation work was, commendably, at the forefront of Government policy announced last year.

Quite the contrary. The plan is part of that programme, as in fact the editorial them acknowledges:

A key part of this programme is providing greater support for prisoners to find jobs when they are released. Theoretically, that process should be aided by the Government’s work initiative.

So again we have an entire editorial that is at odds with the assertion in its title. It is bizarre.

They say:

Admirable idea falls down on numerous practicalities.

Yet they have not documented these. All they have done is say hey it may cost some money (no shit Sherlock), and you need to be careful of the impact on the labour market.

I never thought we’d see a newspaper argue against money being spent on giving prisoners training and tuition so they are more likely to gain employment when released.

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More working prisons

January 30th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young at NZ Herald reports:

More prisons will be turned into working prisons where all prisoners will be placed in a 40-hour week programme of work and rehabilitation, Prime Minister John Key said in his statement to Parliament today, the first sitting day of the year.

It is part of the Government’s goal of reducing reoffending by 25 per cent by 2017.

“The Government will increase employment opportunities for prisoners by establishing more of our prisons as working prisons, where all prisoners will be engaged in a structured 40-hour week of employment and rehabilitation activities,” he said. …

Of the country’s 19 prisons, only one at present is deemed a working prison, Rolleston.

Seems like an excellent initiative to me. Hopefully they won’t stop at three prisons. It would be impractical to do at the maximum security prisons, but I think having a regular work routine will help prisoners reintegrate back into society once their term is up.

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Restorative justice at work

January 20th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Tony Wall at the SST reports:

The Jewish community has taken pity on one of the youths who desecrated graves at a cemetery in Auckland with Nazi symbols – causing worldwide outrage – and is even offering to pay his university tuition fees so he can turn his life around.

Robert Moulden, 19, pleaded guilty to a charge of intentional damage in the Auckland District Court last year and will be sentenced next month. His co-accused, Christian Landmark, 20, has pleaded not guilty and appears in court again on Tuesday.

More than a dozen headstones in the Jewish quarter of the Symonds St Cemetery were vandalised with images of swastikas and expletive-ridden anti-Israeli messages on October 19. It is proving incredibly difficult to remove paint from the porous headstones, which date back to the 19th century, and the repair job could cost as much as $50,000.

Moulden is a beneficiary, lives in a hostel in central Auckland, and says he has no family support. He has gone through a restorative justice programme with members of the Jewish community, has been taught about the Holocaust and has even gone to one member’s house for a Friday night Shabbat dinner.

The chairman of the Jewish Council of New Zealand, Geoff Levy, confirmed that during a restorative justice meeting offers were made to pay for Moulden to attend engineering courses at AUT University.

“When we asked him what he wanted to do with himself he expressed a desire to follow engineering if he could,” Levy said. “We’ve given this young man a chance to respond to the offers, and we’ve appointed someone to liaise with him to see whether he can be helped, or wants to be helped.

“He’s going to have to want to do something himself. If we can help him, we’re happy to do that. But it’s got to be consistent with realising the damage he’s done, paying the price that society demands of him and making sure it will not happen again.

“Hopefully we can provide him with support, mentoring and assistance in getting an education, so that he will be able to make the best decisions next time when faced with a choice.”

If this occurs, that is an excellent outcome.

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Geddis praises Collins

January 19th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Andrew Geddis blogs on the criminal mistreatment issue. He sums up the proposal:

A prisoner is in jail serving their punishment – doing the time for their crime. Whilst in jail, they are mistreated … in a way that breaches the rights guaranteed to all New Zealanders under legislation. They then get monetary compensation (only after all other means of remedying the situation have failed). That compensation first pays any debt they owe to any person they may have harmed through their crime – assuming there is such a debt in place.

And then the Government takes back the rest of the compensation and uses it to bolster the account it uses to pay for the support of victims of all crime.

So, in essence, the Government is proposing to fund a system of helping crime victims with money that it pays to prisoners after mistreating them whilst they are in its custody. And it will take that compensation away no matter how grievous the rights breach the prisoner has suffered, and irrespective of whether the crime that put the person in prison caused any individual any loss at all.

He states:

But to go from those propositions to a solution that prisoners have no right to receive compensation for harms caused to them by the State, but instead must pay it over to help society meet its obligations to crime victims, is to in effect say that prisoners are not people. And that is wrong.

That is why I’m pleasantly surprised to see Judith Collins essentially agree with me and announce that she won’t be following through with Simon Power’s proposal, but rather moving to make permanent the existing claims system. …

Quite right. So credit where credit is due – my first words of 2013 are praise for Judith Collins.

Judith’s opponents sometimes try to paint her as one-dimensional, but if you look at her overall track record in both Police and Justice, I believe it is in fact quite sophisticated  in balancing up the various rights and responsibilities of those involved in the justice system.

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Could he be a Mana Party member?

November 23rd, 2012 at 2:51 pm by David Farrar

Sandra Cochie at NZ Herald reports:

A man who pointed a rifle at a policewoman in Katikati after telling her “we must eradicate all white people” has been jailed for four-and-half years.

He said it while pissed, but still rather concerning to have a combination of race hatred and firearms. Statements from MPs about white motherfuckers do have an impact on society.

Does anyone (ie GE or DG) know if presenting a firearm at a police officer is a strike offence?

The court was told that Flay had only recently been released from prison when he pointed the firearm at a Katikati police constable in Fairview Rd on July 24.

I wonder what the previous offences were for?

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Our youngest murderer

November 17th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

He’s an ordinary-looking teenager, but 13-year-old Jordan Nelson is now believed to be New Zealand’s youngest murderer.

Nelson pleaded guilty in the High Court at New Plymouth yesterday to the murder of his caregiver, 50-year-old Rosemaree Kurth earlier this year.

Nelson was 13 years and 89 days old when he shot Ms Kurth in the back of the head with a .22 calibre rifle.

The nearest thing to a motive that the Crown could offer to the court was the fact that Ms Kurth had taken his Freeview TV receiver from him.

It’s a sad and puzzling case. To kill someone over such a trivial issue is disturbing – even more so when it is a 13 year old.

However the background, as reported, doesn’t seem typical for young killers. Not in a gang. Acted alone. Rural, not urban.

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Tracking Offenders

November 12th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young at NZ Herald reports:

Dangerous repeat violent offenders and sex offenders could be monitored for the rest of their lives after release from prison, says Police and Corrections Minister Anne Tolley.

She wants to develop a comprehensive management scheme similar to one run in Britain and says a law allowing it could be passed by the 2014 election. …

Mrs Tolley returned last week from visiting the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements group (Mappa) in London.

It monitors about 58,000 registered offenders who are deemed to pose a serious risk of harm to the public on their release.

“They do a risk analysis of them and keep track of them essentially for the rest of their lives,” she said.

At a minimum, the offenders were required to register once a year.

Not a great burden.

Officials kept track of their address, job, family relationships and other things depending on the individual.

The officials kept an eye on their propensity for offending again but also worked with them to help them find another job if they lost one, or find housing.

Mrs Tolley said she was worried that once repeat offenders finished their parole or supervision orders they went out into the community.

“Take someone like Stewart Wilson – he’s on parole and then he is on an extended supervision order for 10 years, which is a really close monitoring of him, but at the end of that period he is finished and we just walk away.”

She hoped that because Wilson was older, his opportunities for reoffending would be few, “but there are some younger ones who will just disappear out into the community”.

Asked about civil liberties concerns, she said most offenders found it helpful to have that sort of structure in their lives “and know if something goes wrong, there is someone keeping track of them and they are not on their own out in the community”.

Sounds a worthwhile initiative if it can reduce reoffending rates.

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The new drug and alcohol courts

November 2nd, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A new court designed to tackle the underlying causes of crime will save lives and money, say judges.

Two new courts opened in Waitakere and central Auckland this morning will deal with about 100 people with alcohol and drug dependency issues in its first year of operation.

Costing $2 million, the courts will take on those who have pleaded guilty, face a term of at least three years in prison and show a willingness to change their ways.

They will be put through an intense programme designed to turn their lives around and, if they are successful, their efforts will be taken into account at sentencing.

The court has been years in the planning and draws on research from around the world.

Let’s hope it is effective. The flow on effects to families and communities will be large if they are.

The other advantage both judges point to is the potential money saved in police time, court cases, prison space and the social costs to victims and their families.

Judge Tremewan said there are 2600 similar courts in the US and the number has increased, despite Federal budget cuts.

She said many of those that come before the courts with alcohol and drugs problems are on benefits but she has met people who have come through the US model and are now proud to be taxpayers.

“It gives them the opportunity to learn work and life skills.”

From criminal to taxpayer – excellent.

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