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Out with three strikes

Written By: - Date published: 3:30 pm, February 23rd, 2010 - 31 comments
Categories: act, crime, law and "order", national - Tags:

The National / ACT “three strikes” policy on violent crime sentencing is the worst kind of law. It will not have the desired effect, it doesn’t address the real problem, and it has a host of unintended consequences:

Justice ministry slams three strikes changes

The Justice Ministry warned the Government against changing its three strikes violent crime policy saying it risked breaching New Zealand’s Bill of Rights and international obligations, went against the Government’s own policy on the drivers of crime and impacted on judicial powers. It also said some juries might not convict criminals, concerned by the unfair consequences if they did, and that the group worst affected would be Maori.

That’s a pretty damning summary.

As just covered by Eddie, and recently covered by Marty G, “getting tough” is not a solution for crime. It’s a knee jerk response intended to posture to the electorate, nothing more. To a large extent crime is a function of poverty. Reduce unemployment and crime will fall – as it did with near full employment under the last Labour government.

National, however, have no idea how to reduce unemployment. They also seem to have no understanding of costs and benefits. As Marty summed it up: “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.”

Three strikes is a bad policy. The Justice Ministry has set out why in detail. No wonder the Ministry was, outrageously, blocked from giving advice to the select committee. Yet another example of government by pure ideology, determined to ignore the facts…

31 comments on “Out with three strikes ”

  1. It is not based on an understanding of the causes of crime, or an attempt to do anything about crime.

    It is the worst sort of policy. Its only requirement is that it can be boiled down into a short slogan and appeal to those who think that our penal system should be motivated by vengeance, not compassion.

    • Ag 1.1

      It isn’t meant to reduce crime. It’s a policy designed to capture the votes of the more authoritarian members of society by inflicting harsh punishments on “evildoers”.

      If conservatives cared about reducing crime, then why, since violent crime has been decreasing for years, do conservative media consistently act like it is increasing?

      We aren’t dealing with rational people, here.

  2. tc 2

    To quote Homer Simpson….” just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I dont understand…” it’s all about image and posture….forget about the impacts or whether it’ll do harm or do good……a great soundbite/more coffins for Wodney to parade past is the real outcome here.

    The con job on middle NZ continues……with a compliant MSM aiding and abetting….the justice ministry being excluded is yet another abuse of process….that list just keeps growing.

  3. Scott 3

    This is a hopeless policy that is roundly opposed by most people who work in the justice system, and has the potential to create more victims.

    Oh, and did I mention there’s no reliable evidence that tougher sentences work?

    Supporters of the three-strikes policy say its opponents are soft on crime. The truth is that the policy’s supporters are the soft ones, because they are pushing for something that will likely not work to reduce crime rates, when if they actually cared about crime prevention they would be looking at other strategies.

  4. George D 4

    So I take it that Phil Goff will be loudly and publicly opposing this policy?

  5. lprent 5

    Good post.

    I suspect that you’d find the correlation even higher if you lagged the change in unemployment by a period – maybe a year compared to the crime rate. That is about how long it takes for all of the household savings and saleable items to be realised.

    That is one of the other reasons that prolonged unemployment is so damn bad for a society. Of course the NACTs prefer to ‘do something’ by excessive sentencing. It makes no difference to the eventual crime figures – but it is easier for the lazy arseholes.

  6. KINTO 6

    Pretty simple when it comes to National, Act (remember Act corruptly selling a seat in parliament to David Garrett) and the sensible sentacing trust. More victims = More votes. Its that simple.

  7. vto 7

    Don’t know if any of you heard Stephen Franks on Baby Boomer Radio this afternoon but he had some great thoughts. Quoted New York’s success. Referred to more mandatory sentencing where the judges have less discretion.

    Of course he was an Act MP so many of you will dismiss him because of that, but he made a lot of sense.

    But do agree with link between unemployment and crime too. Pretty bloody obvious. Most people would do similar if pushed … … ….

    just another 2c

    • Descendant Of Smith 7.1

      Here is a little Wikipedia link on New York’s reducing crime rate and causes behind it. There’s plenty of other research.

      I’ve used this link because Wiki sources normally in my experience convey quite clearly the pros and cons of any issue. This one is slightly unusual in that it shows very little support for such polices as zero tolerance and three strikes as being effective. It also provides lots more sources for further information.

      Major conclusion:
      The crime decrease was due not the work of the police and judiciary, but to economic and demographic factors. The main ones were an unprecedented economic growth with jobs for millions of young people, and a shift from the use of crack towards other drugs.

      I am wondering however whether such a 3 strikes and you are out should be applied to businessmen who shut up businesses owing lots of money to others. Three times and you can never run a business again. Same rules for those who breach advertising laws – three breaches and you can’t advertise. Same rules for those who breach environmental regulations – three effluent discharges and you go to jail for a long long time.

    • I agree with you VTO in part …

      New York’s “broken window” program succeeded for a number of reasons. One of the most important was the reduction in unemployment, see above. Also it was about reducing environmental triggers of crime like tidying up trains and making individuals more comfortable about going into public areas. Once this was achieved crime reduced because there were more people around.

      Like all other wingnut analysis Franks leaps onto one statistic and claims that it is the reason that things are better without trying to understand everything that is happening around him.

    • Legalization of abortion helped, but dont tell Franks that, tends to send social regressive through the roof.

      People tend to misunderstand the “broken windows” policy, as above, its about fixing every broken window, not using up massive police resources finding and prosecuting window breakers.

  8. Herodotus 9

    There is a strong correlation on this graph, without being a wee bit skeptical why is the grapgh not extended to a greater lenght of time, the shorter the period the greater a set of data can be correlated to another, I would be interested to see the graph commencing from the post war years. There was a couple of mathamaticians in the early part of this decade who devised a strategy t invest within the US sharemarket, it worked wonderfully initially then with the recession collapsed dramatically. Why did they not pick this up? There data that the strategy was based on cover only a decade of sharemaket activity, it did not icvlude and redessioc/depression periods.
    I take it that by unemployment you refer to the official unemployment rate and not the 260k who are not employed but would take a job if it was presented to them.

  9. prism 10

    Unemployment and crime. I remember a comment from a policeman driving round his town with a reporter. The policeman pointed out various workers on building sites, waved out to some and remarked that during the recession – prob 1990s – they had all been in trouble with the law. Jobs came back, they were back at work and happy and virtually trouble free.

    The real problem with crime is when poverty of mind and socialisation and personal standards and poverty of income go hand in hand. Just providing jobs won’t get things right when there is so much wrong which needs extensive salvage programs. Human beings need to be cared for and taught by parents who care about doing a good job. For the state or private entities to start doing this with older people is a big task, but successes can be achieved.

  10. Can anyone else hear that ticking sound ?

  11. Rex Widerstrom 12

    To a large extent crime is a function of poverty.

    To a large extent many types of crime are a function of poverty, and there’s absolutely no doubt that reducing poverty will have a marked effect on crime.

    But a lot of the crime that makes the headlines, and feeds the fear that The Garotte. McVictim et al feed off, has little to do with poverty. A lot of street thuggery, for instance, is committed by what the Australians call “cashed up bogans” – idiots earning a lot of money (in the case of younf men with a trade in Australia, unimaginable amounts of money) tanked up on alcohol and sometimes methamphetamine.

    In my comment on Eddie’s related post today I’ve linked to video of a police officer violently bashing an innocent bystander. He was fined… sadly, cashed up bogans who commit violent assaults are often dealt with with similar leniency.

    I believe there is much to recommend a “broken windows” policy for some crime. Those committing assaults, for instance, would learn a lot from a brief spell in prison and then a much longer spell of community service in the A&E department mopping up blood and vomit.

  12. Mac1 13

    Damn, Rex, you hit the spot from time to time.

    Just back from rehearsal of “Four Flat Whites in Italy”. A character says in relation to dealing with the circumstances derived from driving negligently and having his daughter become a paraplegic, “Community service! It would have been a reward! Get me out of the house, meet new people, doing good, assuaging guilt. Paradise compared to being at home. Then they realized probably I was already doing the best community service I could do, helping to look after Joanna.”

    Connected thought, but needing careful connection. Krishnamurti, the Theosophist thinker, said that the way to deal with delinquency is to get the young person to put his/her hand on the body of a corpse. Dealing with death, awareness of mortality, is a great lesson giver.

    I’ve helped facilitate course in NZ prisons offering alternatives to violence and have seen and heard the broken-hearted stories of men who have done deeply hurtful, harmful, vicious things, and lived to regret them. (I’ve seen the others, too, who don’t regret for whatever dark reasons.)

    We must always offer a chance for change, for redemption, for the saving of souls, to criminals. Not to do so denies the chance or recognition that any of us might change where we need to, not to do so denies their humanity, and ours.

    As said earlier in the first comment, vengeance is a mean and dispiriting emotion; compassion and understanding opens hearts and ways. Thanks for your insistent belief, and to other like commenters, that this is the way to conduct our justice system, our prisons, our ways of dealing with crime and criminals.

    • Rex Widerstrom 13.1

      Only from time to time, Mac1? ;-P

      Thank you for running such courses and realising some people have the capacity for change. Indeed, as you say, most do – but not all.

      If we were cleverer at picking the difference, recidivism rates would plummet so I hope you’re agitating for input into the parole process (I constantly promote the idea that prison officers, course facilitators and others in ‘the system’, who’ve seen an offender over time and with their guard down, should be listened to at least as much as psychologists who do a ‘fly by’ pre-release assessment).

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