The ‘3 strikes’ policy is the kind of policy you put in place when you want to look tough on crime but you have no idea how to actually reduce it, in the same way a cycleway is the jobs plan you have when you don’t have a plan.
We know locking people up longer doesn’t reduce crime. It is not a deterrent (how, I which we had a Corrections Minister who knew that basic fact). The single best way to reduce crime is by getting people in jobs, giving them something to do with their time and an income. A 1% decrease in unemployment equates to a 6% reduction in crime, which works out at about one less crime for every one less person unemployed. That makes the Greens’ Green New Deal the best crime-prevention policy out there.
At any rate, the ‘3 strikes’ policy will hardly result in locking anyone up longer, even the worst offenders. The Government admits that ‘3 strikes’ won’t have any effect for 8-10 years. It claims that 142 extra people will be locked up in 10 years time under the ‘3 strikes’ rule but many of these people would have been given lengthy sentences on their third serious offence anyway.
Of course, the long-term result of these long mandatory sentences is a bunch of geriatrics, who are no danger to anyone anymore, still being locked up at a cost of for crimes they committed as much as 50 years ago. By 2060, 750 people will be locked up under the law, most of them elderly, at a cost of $100,000 per year and $500,000 per prison bed (again, using the Government’s own figures).
Here’s a government that’s willing to take a troubled, violent young man and lock him up for half a century at a cost of $5 million and yet it’s not willing to invest a fraction of that amount in programmes for at-risk kids, or job creation, or training for beneficiaries, or adult education, or drug and alcohol programmes, or all the other programmes that work to give young people a better chance at life and stop them committing crimes in the first place.
It’s so sad that we can find billions of dollars for punishment, that doesn’t help the offender and can’t undo the damage to the victim, and yet we won’t spend anything like that on prevention.
But, of course, there are corporates with a big interest in the punishment industry, and National is welcoming them to New Zealand with open arms. Private prisons are big business in the States and Australia, and the more people being sentenced to longer sentences the better business gets.
Overseas we have seen private prison companies fund lobby groups and ‘think tanks’ calling for tougher sentences. We’ve seen them get into corrupt deals with judges, who get kick-backs for handing down longer sentences. And we have seen no savings for the taxpayer or reduction in crime as a result. This is what we’re opening ourselves up to in New Zealand.
In ten years time, unless a Labour Government with balls and good sense has reversed these policies, we will see who wins from private prisons and ‘3 strikes’ as offenders are sent to rot in private prisons, and make profit for their owners while we taxpayers foot the bill.