Goff advocates real solutions to crime

Written By: - Date published: 7:33 am, January 29th, 2010 - 40 comments
Categories: crime, phil goff - Tags:

Goff and his advisers knew that the wage cap on public service CEOs would be the headline grabber of his widely praised speech. It succeeded beautifully and has drawn greater attention to the rest of his message.

It also maneuvered National into the position of having to advocate for higher wages for public servants on gigantic salaries if they wanted to oppose him. Incredibly, they took the bait. Calling for higher wages for half million dollar CEOs is idiocy. Especially when National’s freezing the wages of the ordinary public servants, the doctors, the nurses, and the teachers.

But there is actually a hell of a lot more to this speech than the headline grabber. There is heaps more solid stuff to expand upon in the coming year. Like this:

When I was Minister of Justice, I helped set up a pilot program called Te Hurihanga here in the Waikato. It is a place to send young offenders, hold them accountable for their behaviour, and put the work in that will turn them away from a lifetime of serious crime. It gets hold of boys who are under seventeen and it gives them a wake up call, but it also teaches them literacy skills, teaches them how to become better men and make better decisions – a kick in the pants, and help to make them better before it’s too late.

It’s not cheap, but the alternative is far more costly and less effective. Stopping recidivist offenders saves the victim, it saves the police, the justice system and the long-term prison costs. Hamilton police have described the program as a ‘Godsend.’ But the government has yet to give a commitment to keep it going when the pilot ends this year. Why would you dither over a successful program like that, but rush ahead with a three strikes policy, which over the next five years will result in locking up only about twelve extra people a year.

The political rhetoric gets headlines, but the policy doesn’t make any real difference to make our community safer. If we are going to create better opportunities for our young people, we need to tackle not only the kids who are already in trouble… It is about creating a breakthrough generation in educational achievement and job skills.

Dead right. Crime is a symptom of deeper social malaise. Locking people up does not solve the problem. In fact, it makes it worse. And it costs a fortune – nearly $300 a day. We know how to stop the vast majority of potential offenders committing crimes. It comes down to early intervention, well-functioning communities, education, and jobs. If we choose to, we can supply all that for a fraction of the price of locking people up and avoid the impact of crime in the first place.

This is just one of the themes Goff has outlined for Labour. I’ll have a look at more later. But I think Goff is on to a winner here. He is talking about the things that matter to Kiwis and he is making solid proposals that work. He and Labour should stick to it.

40 comments on “Goff advocates real solutions to crime”

  1. schrodigerscat 1

    I look forward to Goff walking the talk on this. But don’t really hold high hopes of it not descending into another “Tough on crime” race to the bottom.

  2. trolling 2

    Who is this Goff fellow you keep reffering to ?

  3. Good comment.

    I have mixed feelings on Labour’s performance in this area. The plusses were more money put into rehabilitative resources, particularly for the poor.

    The minusses were more prisons, higher sentences, greater prison muster.

    It did not do them any good. The law and order brigade should have been appreciative but just brayed for more.

    We really do need to have a debate. If you invested money into a process that failed 90% of the time you would review your decision very quickly. We should do this about incarceration which fails about that often.

    • felix 3.1

      The Lauren O’Derrr brigade will never stop braying. The McVicars of the world have no end goal, only continued escalation of punishment.

      Many see the death penalty is the obvious conclusion to their efforts but I predict that even if that dark depth were ever reached they would carry on dreaming up more bizarre and ritualistic methods of killing, and lobby govt for the rights of vigilantes to perform summary executions in the street.

      I just don’t think Garth & co are going to turn around one day and say “Righto, we’ve got a lot more prisons, with harsher conditions, longer sentences, less parole – mission accomplished chaps! Let’s get back to our real lives.”

      Do you?

      • killinginthenameof 3.1.1

        Yes, it is a very good point about Garth McVictim, its always just “longer sentances” not any specified ammount, it means they have no real intellectual basis for the crap they spout, it makes them predictable, it makes them not worth listening to. They are also foul and discusting the way they treat victims, and they way they wheel them out like circus acts for television to try and get sympathy for thier cause.

        But summary executions in the street you say? see David Garrets (gee how predictable, remember his seat was a blatantly corrupt deal with the SST, thier support for his seat in parliament) Crimes (Self-Defence) Amendment Bill http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2009/08/in-ballot-xxvii.html

  4. Brett 4

    Just read about Te Hurihanga .
    Sounds an incredibly expensive method to get kids to change their attitude.
    Hell of a lot cheaper to place them in a Army like environment absolutely destroy them, then remould them into someone worth while.

    • Marty G 4.1

      “Hell of a lot cheaper to place them in a Army like environment absolutely destroy them, then remould them into someone worth while.”

      except that doesn’t work, Brett.

      What’s the point in doing something if it doesn’t work?

      It’s like saying we’re saying ‘driving to work is a wasteful and polluting way of doing it, we should use public transport instead’ and your response is ‘the bus is too expensive, so I’m going to drive to work in this cardboard box’

    • Bright Red 4.2

      “Hell of a lot cheaper to place them in a Army like environment absolutely destroy them, then remould them into someone worth while.”

      you need to watch the Clockwork Orange, Brett.

      The idea that you can totally break down the psyche of a person and rebuild it in a controlled fashion into something worthwhile is one of the nonsense ideas that was disgarded decades ago.

  5. Brett 5

    Have you ever lived amongst the unemployed, the criminal element etc?.
    I have and I know what would work and what wouldn’t.

    • Marty G 5.1

      putting troubled young people who are committing crimes into army training does not work. It doesn’t work. That is the experience of 50 years of people like you who think it will work running programmes that always fail.

    • Marty G 5.2

      And while we’re here Brett what do you think is so expensive about Te Hurihanga that would be cheaper in an army programme?

      I really shouldn’t bother asking because whether it’s cheaper or not boot camps don’t work.

  6. Brett 6

    From my experience, Marty what sets the pecking order amongst crims etc is the fist.
    Significant respect is gained by been able to beat the crap out of people especially amongst Maori people.
    Talking to crims about their feelings and how they have hurt people blah blah blah does not work, to most of the underclass these are foreign concepts which show weakness.
    To gain respect you have to be tough, which is why a lot of Maori flourish within the military environment, maybe it’s that warrior gene you here about?

    • Zetetic 6.1

      cut the racism brett.

      no second chance.

    • Marty G 6.2

      Brett, that’s all theory and latent racism. Basically, you’re talking out your arse. I’m interested in the proven effectiveness of policies.

      The fact is Te Hurihanga works. It works better for less money than person and it works better than your army programme which doesn’t work at all and isn’t cheap like you seem to think.

    • James L 6.3

      Actually, Brett, there’s a hell of a lot of research that shows that identifying and treating young offenders early is the most successful way of preventing recidivism and turning their lives’ around. Your “experience” doesn’t mean anything in this debate. Ask anyone who is involved in youth justice (from researchers, treatment providers and youth court judges like Judge Becroft) and they will tell you that all that the army / boot camps do is produce tougher and fitter young crims. Comprehensive systemic treatment programmes that treat the offender and their family are most likely to be successful. They are expensive at the front end but save a lot of money down the track. The Department of Corrections estimated in 2001 such comprehensive treatment programmes to have a benefit:cost ratio of 36:1. (Dep’t of Corrections’ 2001 publication About Time: turning people away from a life of crime and reducing reoffending. Not sure if it’s available online anymore).

      This is not about being soft on offenders and molly-coddling them. It’s about what works to reduce crime. And the punitive interventions you appear to be advocating don’t do that.

  7. Brett 7

    My apologies, when I re read my post it does give the impression that I am talking about all
    Maori instead of the criminal element.

  8. James L 8

    treatment programmes such as multi-systemic therapy, multi-dimensional treatment fostercare etc work best on young offenders between the ages of 10 and 15. Above that and you start seeing behaviours deeply ingrained and more difficult to shift, and efficacy drops off.

    But the children who will most likely go on to become the violent and serious young offenders are readily identifiable much younger than that, at school entry age (5-6). Comprehensive behaviour modification interventions for these children are about 75% successful and have an estimated benefit:cost ratio of 51:1.

    It is astounding that we do not have comprehensive programmes that target and treat these kids as early as possible.

    • James L 8.1

      sorry, that is response to Brett’s comment @ 9:44

    • prism 8.2

      James it is so astounding that we don’t have early intervention programmes for youngsters that show traits which can be identified early that are likely to lead to offending criminally. I think that this has been suggested constantly since the Church’s work in 1970ish?

      I feel that politicians and the general class that consider they are suitable to be managers of their society, aren’t at all concerned about helping the low income people who are having, and causing trouble. The response is annoyance and a sense of their dangerousness, and the leading emotion is impatience. This results in action to get a quick fix, and let’s get the desk clear of these annoying files about useless people of no value.

  9. prism 9

    Hey Brett you say you know what will work on combatting crime. Have you advised the government of this? Make sure that they know, if they like your ideas you may end up heading a movement and get funding like Garth McVicar and have media constantly phoning you for your opinion. The get tough position which you seem to like is known to improve criminals fitness and probably their health, but I don’t know whether it gets them off drugs as well. Can you advise on this? A lot of them have addictions of some kind that have become overwhelming so that personal work on overcoming such problems can be the answer to reducing their criminal habits.

    And does it help them with the lack in their schooling – often their reading abilities and maths are shonky, and of course that affects their work readiness and standards. If they are at work in a job that suits their abilities then they aren’t thieving, hitting, stomping, stamping, knifing, shooting and other activities they specialise in that need to be put aside for better ones.

  10. Brett 10

    I must admit I was talking more about people 18+.
    I do admit the touchy feely would work better on the young ones before the criminal behaviour is ingrained.
    Your last comment about creating a program to target school entry kids is a good one.
    If a child is showing criminal behaviour at that young age obviously mum and dad are up to no good and should be placed in a Army like environment :-).

    • James L 10.1

      It really annoys me when people label psychological rehabilitation as “touchy feely”. it couldn’t be further from the truth. Just like Judith Collins implying in her Herald op-ed a couple of days ago that supporters of rehabilitation don’t give a damn about victims and are more interested in the rights of criminals. It’s utter bullsh*t. People who advocate these programmes are interested in what works to prevent reoffending. And the evidence is clear – rehabilitation works better than locking up someone for longer. It reduces recidivism and makes society safer. But, unfortunately, it’s harder to sell to the public than the “get tough on crime” approach, which is costlier and has worse outcomes in the long term.

      Re: the identification of young children, most children don’t show criminal behaviour at such a young age, but they display clear antisocial / conduct disorder behaviour which, if unchecked, will likely develop into offending. But there should most certainly be a national programme (or even a large pilot) running now. The experts, including gov’t policy wonks, have known that this would be an effective approach for some time, but government won’t roll it out because the justice $ is (in thier view) better spent eleswhere, pandering to the SST type people.

  11. prism 11

    A young child can be identified as showing strong tendencies
    for behaviour that is likely to lead to crime. There is no need to wait for the boundary of law to be broken before having programmes to help the child and hopefully the parent, to learn to control aggressive tendencies. A toddler at play school may need to learn to stop bashing the other kids to get toys. That saying of how the twig is bent, the tree will grow. Bullying and violence and lack of social skills often combine to make an unpleasant person prepared to be vicious if it suits them.

  12. Quoth the Raven 12

    Goff also advocates more law and order insanity when dealing with crime. When he was justice minister he increased sentences, increased denial of bail and reduced parole. The prison population increased by a record amount. I wouldn’t trust Goff in this area at all based on his appalling record.

    • Mac1 12.1

      QtR, when I read this comment and then read your comment on the Open Mike thread on Apple products being bought by lame hipsters, I don’t think I can trust your easy use of put-downs and unjustified opinions.

      Written by Mac1 on a Mac.

      • Quoth the Raven 12.1.1

        There’s a difference between these threads and the open mike thread. This is not an unjustified opinion it’s what Labour actually did and what actually happened under Labour. Labour introduced new acts on sentencing, parole and bail all of which were petty and punitive. The prison population acutally did increase greatly under Labour. That’s reality that’s action as opposed to rhetoric that’s a man and a party who I simply cannot support.

        • George D

          You’re absolutely right QtR. When in power, Labour actively resisted increasing spending on programs such as these, instead choosing to spend ever greater amounts on money on more and more prisons and prisoners.

          I won’t believe it until I see it. Not until there is a large number allocated for it in the next Labour Government budget. Until then, based on Goff’s track record I just have to assume that it is fine words.

          What makes an offender stop offending is making them take responsibility for their actions. The lawanawhdah numbshits think that longer sentences do that. They don’t. Making people take responsibility for their actions does it – and in order to do that you need to deal with people in particular ways, things that are currently absent from the prison and justice system.

    • prism 12.2

      QTR I don’t think you should diss Goff’s likely approach to reducing crime so fast He could argue shortage of money and cut down on some of the expenditure that greater incarceration brings and limit jail time to short sharp courses and forced activity after which parole and home detention could follow.
      But some people are such obvious reoffenders that having reduced parole options for them is not being punitive, it is a matter of probability of offending and public safety. Some people will have to stay in prison permanently – but mental health treatment for them and for others might be introduced as a cost saving treatment with the likelihood of the occasional breakthroughs and turnaround successes.
      At present the three strikes law is our latest move under the safety heading with increased jail time. It will be a task to amend this legislation to make it more practical for the corrections people as well as the public, and Goff would have that to deal with at the same time as any other useful, constructive policies that he might adopt.

  13. prism 13

    Useful point made this morning about the gap between leaving school at 16 and being overseen by the social services at 18 when allowed to apply for unemployment benefit. Two years of high testosterone, or oestrogen, coupled with a desire for excitement, and to do something as an individual – but what? Be a boy racer, leave a permanent impression on the world (tyre tracks burnt into the roadway), chief vomiter after too big a number of all night mind numbers.
    Two years at a prime time for young people to get into trouble, get bad habits which can develop quite nicely into really awful habits. I seem to remember Hide going on negatively about an alternative school that had youngsters playing golf. Shows how stupid and petty the little sod is. Young people playing sport is a positive thing usually, except perhaps for that ultimate fighting don’t know if that is healthy for either combatant, and anything in which you have to concentrate on learning acceptable skills and set goals is a move in an upward direction. Mixed with trade learning where you can see something tangible emerge from your work this would be a sensible and rewarding programme. Is it being done throughout the country? Bet you not. Dirtline (lower than grassroots and bare of any growth) mentality widespread would ensure that Hide’s negative, don’t spend money approach would win the day.

  14. jen 14

    Garth McVicar’s view of ‘sensible sentencing” Summed up for me a while ago when I heard him commenting about a 150 year sentence handed down to an elderly criminal in the US. “now that’s a sensible sentence! Garth you knob!! (but it did give me a huge laugh) Know what you mean re 4 yorkshiremen mickysavage .

  15. gingercrush 15

    He doesn’t actually advocate real solutions to crime. He mentions about how he would like to see intervention etc. But there are no actual solutions providing. On this front National has done much better and actually are doing something.


    19 September 2009 John Key
    “Securing a brighter future: One Year On”

    We’ve backed the National Standards policy up with an additional $36 million over four years to help schools boost help for the children who aren’t reaching the benchmarks.

    We’ve provided a new vocational education option for 16 and 17 year olds, by creating 2000 Youth Guarantee places in our polytechs and private training establishments. This will allow hundreds of teenagers who might otherwise be left behind by our school system to take part in a fees-free course that fires up their imagination, whether it’s a course in agriculture, tourism or plumbing.

    We’ve announced six new Trades Academies to be developed in New Zealand’s secondary schools. These will provide trade-training opportunities to teenagers while they’re still at school.

    We’ve also offered boosted opportunities for young people from our less wealthy communities, with funding secured for 30,000 extra places in holiday activity programmes from 2011. And we’ve created 100 special places in a Prime Minister’s Programme for teenagers who’ve made a concerted effort to turn their lives around.

    We’ve invested $72.4 million in our Fresh Start programme to turn young offenders away from crime. This will provide the Youth Court with new powers to place young offenders in 3000 new programme places, including new military-style activity camps, mentoring courses, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and outdoor activities.


    14 September 2009
    John Key
    “Delivering on our Promises: Speech to the Police Association Annual Conference”

    2. Our second pledge was to tackle increasing violent youth crime by bolstering the Youth Court with a range of new interventions and sentences.

    We have acted on this pledge.

    We have introduced new legislation and $82 million in new funding to support a strengthened range of up to 3000 new interventions for young offenders.

    Like you, we know that the young offenders of today are the unexploded time bombs of tomorrow.

    We also know that we have the power to turn young people off a life of crime, if we get in early and intervene effectively.

    Thanks to our new Fresh Start youth justice initiatives, from next year the following will be possible:

    * Up to 1000 more young people a year will take part in Community Youth Programmes. These will be designed to keep at-risk young people out of court. We will be calling on the proven success of the Police in running these kinds of programmes and we look forward to working with you to deliver them.

    We’re also giving the Youth Court the ability to ensure that:

    * Up to 300 more offenders a year can take part in a mentoring programme,
    * 230 more can take part in alcohol and drug treatment and
    * Up to 700 families of youth offenders take part in parenting programmes.

    We’re also funding new intensive programmes to change the behaviour of young offenders and get them back on the rails. These programmes are about instilling self-discipline, a sense of personal responsibility and clear boundaries. We are increasing funding over time so there are hundreds of new places in these programmes:

    * Up to 200 young offenders will be able to take part in 10-day long Youth Court supervised activity camps.
    * More than 200 will be placed in innovative new youth justice programmes designed by experts.
    * Up to 30 young offenders will be placed on electronic bail.
    * 175 more places will be created in supported bail programmes.
    * 50 more hard-end young offenders will be able to take part in Supervision with Activity programmes of up to six months
    * And 40 of the most troubled offenders will be able to take part in residential military-activity camps.

    Taken together, the Government’s Fresh Start package will help turn more young people off a life of crime, it will help make our communities safer and it will save lives.

    Not to mention his speech on 26 August 2009 where John Key actually delivered real solutions in his speech “Delivering for Young New Zealanders”.

    You should also probably check out his speech “Youth Opportunities: Speech to National Conference”.


    One could also add Whanau Ora.

    • prism 15.1

      I think it would be better to hyperlink to big reports Gingercrush. I think I read previously that there are instructions for this in FAQ. I have just learnt to do it myself and it’s not difficult.

  16. Bill 16

    Both sides in this are wrong…or at least woefully inadequate.

    The problem with the interventionist approach is that it assumes a society captured by and subject to capitalist imperatives is basically healthy. Sure, there might be questions surrounding poverty and housing and so on. But these things are seen as fixable through a bit of tinkering here and a bit of readjustment there.

    The blame then falls squarely on the individual who has ‘failed’ to be suitably adjusted to what is basically a sane and healthy society ( one that merely needs a few rough edges smoothed). Luckily then, the criminal can be ‘saved’ by submission to professional interventions that will teach ‘correct’ thoughts and attitudes.

    This ‘rehabilitation’ will ‘work’ for a goodly number of individuals. It might even leave society feeling better about itself. But the process is as futile and never ending as is the locking up of individuals in more and more prisons for longer and longer periods of their lives.

    Neither approach acknowledges as even a possibility that the environment created by the forces of capitalism and society is intrinsically unhealthy and as such will not be fixed through this or that policy. Both camps are advocating sticking plaster solutions to problems that are far greater and much more fundamental than is being acknowledged.

    • BLiP 16.1

      Well said.

      The present situation is predicated on the idea that the current model of society is working and that those who fail within it need to adapt, to be re-educated. This approach avoids considering that, in fact, it is the system that is creating the apparent drop outs. Instead of solving the woes of society, we end up with ever increasing levels of force being used to manufacture compliance.

  17. Rex Widerstrom 17

    Racing out the door so no time to comment in depth.

    1. Well done for highlighting this Marty.

    2. Well done Goff for introducing the programme – I wasn’t aware of it till now.

    3. (At the risk of sounding like Metiria Turei 😀 ) Since it’s so effective, why wasn’t it rolled out / embedded more deeply when Labour had a chance? They could hardly have believed National, bolted to Act who were happy to be the SST in drag, would look kindly upon such a scheme.

    4. A passing comment on Brett’s comments above… even Goff describes the program as a “kick in the pants”. In my experience working with offenders of all ages and races, some will respond to an appeal to their better natures but many need a “kick in the pants” and do see counselling etc as “touchy feely”. What they don’t like so much, however, is fronting up to their communities, their elders and their victims and being made to explain themselves, which is usually part of a Restorative Justice program. I’ve seen many a macho man reduced to jelly by an elderly lady, especially in Aboriginal and Maori situations where respect for elders is still taught.

    • Draco T Bastard 17.1

      Since it’s so effective, why wasn’t it rolled out / embedded more deeply when Labour had a chance?

      But the government has yet to give a commitment to keep it going when the pilot ends this year.

      Because it’s still in trial?

      • Rex Widerstrom 17.1.1

        Yeah I know but what I’d have said if I wasn’t in such a screaming rush was that this was one of those things that, yes, Labour should have insulated against National canning if it were elected.

        I know that’s slightly unfair as has been mentioned on another thread, and I guess I’m biased in my priorities (as are we all), but this relatively small expense was already showing good returns when the election was called.

        I just wish it could have been embedded. Or better yet, started sooner, and thus ended sooner.

        There’s just too many young futures at stake.

        [Geezus, I’ll be singing “I believe the children are our future…” next].

  18. Mach1 18

    Processing OIA requests from inmates and the one thing that sticks out like the proverbials is that almost all violent offenders had been seriously assaulted in the first year of their life. Just sayin….

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