A journalist on the justice system

Marty Sharpe writes at Stuff:

There are a few things you get used to when you spend a lot of time in court. First, Māori make up the vast majority of defendants; second, it’s dominated by the same surnames and families coming up year after year; third, alcohol and/or drugs are almost always involved; and four; gang influence, specifically from the Mongrel Mob is insidious.

There is a problem, but if you ask me it’s not the justice system, it’s the system that allows these kids to become victims and consequently offenders.

I agree. The justice system is not perfect and can always be improved. But the real issue is kids growing up abused, illiterate, surrounded by drugs and alcohol. They become criminals in turn and the cycle carries on. Breaking that cycle when they are age 25 is near impossible. Getting them into a safe home at 1 year old might make the difference.

If there was one thing I’d want to impress on anyone who was interested, it’s that prison sentences are not given out lightly. Listening to some commentators and critics, you would think the judiciary was stacked with men and women itching to send defendants to prison.

In fact, judges and others in the justice system are at pains not to send people to jail. Community-based sentences, fines, community work are commonplace. A jail sentence is a rarity and usually only handed down when the argument for a custodial sentence is overwhelmingly persuasive. Often as a means of protecting others.

Judges are actually required by law not to send people to prison, unless there is no suitable alternative taking into account the gravity of their offending and need to protect the community.

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