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Reverting to type

Written By: - Date published: 11:23 am, October 6th, 2008 - 48 comments
Categories: crime, election 2008, national - Tags:

Fearing a PR disaster over their tax-cut package announcement later this week, National has reverted to type, shedding the moderate facade and proposing a good old fashioned ‘get tough’ crime policy.

National would abolish parole for people convicted of murder who have previously been convicted of a serious violent crime. In the last six years, that would have applied to ten people, five of whom are currently on parole, none of whom, it seems, have reoffended. Under current law, the worst murderers receive non-parole periods that would only see them released in their old age and violent offenders with a strong likelihood of reoffending can be imprisoned permanently on preventative detention. So, hardly earth-shattering stuff from National but a typically unsophisticated, heavy-handed policy. Rather than crafting the best punishment and rehabilitation for individuals, they just want to lock them up and throw away the key.

There would also be no parole for other repeat violent offenders. The increased prison population resulting from that would cost $43 million a year and require another $315 million prison to be built. (forget the ‘cap on bureaucrats too, corrections staff fall under National’s definition of bureaucrats and hundreds more would be needed).

One can understand why National has gone with a policy like this. With the media whipping itself into a grotesque frenzy over violent crimes, abolishing parole for violent offenders is an easy populist policy to run. But if we actually want to reduce the amount of crime in our communities, we need to remove the conditions that create crime. That means getting young men into work and training, giving them a sense of belonging and self-worth – Labour has made exemplary progress on that front and crime has come down 15%. It means nipping substance dependence in the bud – something ike 80% of crimes are committed by people under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. It means better earlier care for people with mental issues. We need prisons to be about redemption and rehabilitation, not the criminal training grounds they are now – like Johnny Cash says, ‘San Quentin, what good do you think you do?’.

Labour has made some progress in this regard but gone backwards too in trying to out tough National. National clearly has no new ideas; it just wants to put more people in more San Quentins for longer. It seems, once again, that the change we need is Green.

48 comments on “Reverting to type”

  1. higherstandard 1

    Just following you logic chain SP

    “..something ike 80% of crimes are committed by people under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.”

    “It seems, once again, that the change we need is Green.”

    I might be incorrect but aren’t the Greens along with ACT the least tough on alcohol and drugs ?

    [no. the Greens are the only oen with a harm minimisation approach to drugs and alcohol. the others prefer to ban and hope. SP]

  2. sean 2

    SP – I’d imagine if you’d had a family member or friend who had been murdered you’d understand why everyone is so PRO this policy. New Zealanders are sick of a system where criminals have more rights and support than their victims.

  3. Tane 3

    I’d imagine if you’d had a family member or friend who had been murdered you’d understand why everyone is so PRO this policy.

    Because everyone has had a family member or friend who has been murdered?

  4. Steve – are you saying you REALLY believe that the likes of Taffy Hotene, Rufus Junior Marsh, William Bell, Graeme Burton, Bruce Howse et al can be rehabiliated? And do you REALLY want them walking the streets in your neighbourhood?

    Just for the record, my answers to those questions are no, and no!

    [that’s what preventative detention is for. SP]

  5. randal 5

    inv2 you are putting words in peoples mouths again. speak for yourself. whats your answer?

  6. Anita 6

    sean,

    I’d imagine if you’d had a family member or friend who had been murdered you’d understand why everyone is so PRO this policy.

    Like most (if not all) New Zealanders I have friends and/or family members who have been raped (and/or the victims of other crimes of violence), and I don’t support this policy.

    I want a policy that addresses why people rape or commit other violent crimes. That is the way to create a safe healthy society.

  7. Anita 7

    Inventory2,

    We have preventative detention now. How many of your list are already locked up forever by using preventative detention?

  8. outofbed 8

    The getting tough on drugs policy has really worked hasn’t it?
    The Greens drug policy is all about harm reduction.
    It’s sensible and well principled much like most of the Greens policies .
    However You won’t hear that in the media.
    Take TV3 introduction to the Greens campaign launch last night.
    ” no morris dancers at the Greens Campaign launch today”
    I mean lets look at their top ten list candidate
    Dr Kennedy Graham

    Dr. Graham holds a B. Com (Auckland), MA in International Relations (Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Boston), and a Ph.D. (Victoria University, Wellington). He has received Fulbright and Fletcher scholarships, a McCarthy Fellowship (1986), and was Quartercentenary Fellow at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge, England (1995).

    Dr. Graham served in the NZ foreign service for 16 years, specializing in global security and the UN, his last diplomatic assignment being counsellor in the NZ Mission to the United Nations in Geneva. He has lived and worked in nine countries in Asia, the Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas.

    From 1999 to 2004 he worked for the United Nations University, first as Director of its Leadership Academy (Amman, Jordan; 1999-2002); then as director of its Regional Security & Global Governance Project (Bruges, Belgium; 2002-4). In 2004 he was commissioned to provide a paper for the UN Secretary-General?s High-Level Paper on Threats, Challenges and Change.

    In 2005-6 he has been Senior Consultant to the UN?s Dept. of Political Affairs in New York, assisting in the preparation and convening of the Secretary-General?s high-level meetings, and the Security Council?s meetings, with regional organizations

    Funny he doesn’t seem to Morris dance . smoke dope or have fucked Tim Shadbolt
    I think I’m not going to bother to vote it’s too fucking depressing

  9. Dom 9

    sean, so I can take it from your ‘I’d imagine’ line that you have not had someone close murdered? Well I have and unlike your ‘imaginged everyone’ I am not pro this policy – I think its short sighted, ham fisted and reactionary – typical National.

  10. sean 10

    Anita – Labour have tried such policies – yet the violence keeps on coming.

  11. randal 11

    sean…thats why there are laws against it. If nobody was going to do it then would be no need for laws…doh!

  12. Anita 12

    sean,

    So Labour hasn’t succeeded yet, does that mean that it’s impossible?

    Shouldn’t National at least pretend to care about creating a society in which fewer people commit rapes and other violent crimes?

    What they’ve released so far is a policy to attempt to prevent people committing their third. None of the people I personally know who’ve been raped would have been protected by National’s policy not a single one.

  13. Anita 13

    for “National’s police” read “National’s policy”

    I don’t think me expressing my opinion on the police and sexual and domestic violence will help :-/

  14. Ben 14

    No article on the radio debate?

  15. Janet 16

    I think he means the quite boring and grey Radio NZ debate last night between 5 and 6.30. The one where Kathryn Ryan gave Gerry Brownlee the most questions, and the most airtime, including the chance to open and close the debate with a party political broadcast.

  16. randal 17

    the one where Peter Williams Q.C. made mcvicar look like a fool. I didn’t hear it but apparently the rightwing religious nutbars are up in arms about it. they really want capital punishment so all this other stuff is just trying to squeeze the government into acorner on the costs of keeping prisoners. crummy I know but as they all fancy themselves as the next moses they wont stop until their patriarchal fantasys come true.

  17. Ben R 18

    “I want a policy that addresses why people rape or commit other violent crimes. That is the way to create a safe healthy society.”

    Having a female only society would be a start. You could almost do away with prisons.

  18. Lew 19

    Ben: Why don’t we just have a society of one? Consent wouldn’t be an issue, then.

    What? No, it’s certainly no more stupid than your idea.

    L

  19. Anita – Taffy Hotene is serving PD with a 10-year non-parole period for rape, and life with an 18-year non-parole period for murder. He is eligible for parole in June 2018, when he will be 47 years old. William Bell, Bruce Howse and Graeme Burton are all serving life terms with finite non-parole periods (30 years, 25 years and 26 years respectively). Rufus Marsh, who killed for a second time in 1986 is serving a life sentence, has been eligible for parole since 1994, and is due before the Parole Board next month. Each of these offenders could conceivably walk free at some time.

  20. Lew 21

    Janet: “I think he means the quite boring and grey Radio NZ debate last night between 5 and 6.30. The one where Kathryn Ryan gave Gerry Brownlee the most questions, and the most airtime, including the chance to open and close the debate with a party political broadcast.”

    … Despite which Jim Anderton, Pete Hodgson and Russel Norman got all the applause.

    Cue griping about the left-wing librul latte-drinking Wellington media beltocracy.

    L

  21. Janet 22

    This vindictive crime policy is really depressing. We are all born equal and blameless but have different life experiences and opportunities, but are still always human beings. Some people do mean and cruel things (not just those who feature in the crime stats) but I would like to think that it is the behaviour that is bad, not the essence of the person. If we were a really mature nation we would put forgiveness and rehabilitation at the top of our values. But no – we give into the venal desire to punish, and diminish ourselves in the process.

  22. randal said “inv2 you are putting words in peoples mouths again. speak for yourself. whats your answer?”

    randal – if you’d read my whole post (and it wasn’t very long!) you would have seen my answers, but for the record:

    “Steve – are you saying you REALLY believe that the likes of Taffy Hotene, Rufus Junior Marsh, William Bell, Graeme Burton, Bruce Howse et al can be rehabiliated? And do you REALLY want them walking the streets in your neighbourhood?

    Just for the record, my answers to those questions are no, and no!”

  23. Ben R 24

    “Ben: Why don’t we just have a society of one? Consent wouldn’t be an issue, then.”

    Hi Lew, I haven’t seen you here for a while? My post wasn’t entirely serious, although I suspect the world might be slightly more pleasant.

  24. higherstandard 25

    Janet I think we would all like to think that it is the behaviour that is bad, not the essence of the person, if you ever get the chance however have a chat to some professionals who work in forensic psychiatry many of those I have met over the years suggest that there are some people who are just plain evil.

    Thankfully they make up a very small proportion of any society.

  25. Quoth the Raven 26

    As HS says above there are some people out there that are just f*ucked up. It’s a sad fact but these people are beyond redemption, but they are a very tiny number of people. Inv – Have you met these people? Do you work on a parole board? Are you their psychiatrist? If not then you, like me are in no position to judge whether or not such people are worthy of parole. It’s those professionals who make the decision whether these people can be rehabilitated and reintroduced into society or not. Although, we make no real effort at rehabilitating criminals here. I think National’s policy is stupid. It’s just attention grabbing bullshit, that serves no good. It’s just like when they promised to have random checks of retirement homes, after they’d been in the news. Do we hear anything about that now? Is it going to happen?

  26. randal 27

    no they are not just plain evil. that is the w. scott peck line and is the lazy mans substitute for intellectual investigation. some of these psychiatrists you mention would be better occupied learning a little lockean philosophy and then a whole lot more psychoanalysis. Some criminals character structure may be so set that it is impossible to ever change their thinking but that does not let the medical profession off the hook when it comes to providing accurate descriptions and diagnoses instead of avoiding their responsibilities to not only themselves but the electorate and the people of this country as well.

  27. Janet 28

    Evil? You mean born evil? Well if they are going to make those judgements why don’t you extend the argument to considering karma or past lives, and meaning of life arguments about what we are here for? We could be here to leave the place a bit better than we found it and learn a few lessons in compassion along the way.

    On the other hand I have always thought a certain bullying MP could have been a concentration camp guard in a previous life.

  28. Quoth the Raven 29

    Randal – I think it’s an established fact now that a very small number of people just have no empathy for other humans. They’re born that way. No amount of rehabilitation will work for these people, but for most people rehabilitation will work, if given the chance and they should be released from prison one day. If proper effort was made with these people I wouldn’t care if they moved in next door to me, but a proper effort is never made in this country. Sentences could be a lot shorter too, if effort was made at rehabilitation.

    Perfect captcha – defective right

  29. Ben R 30

    “We are all born equal and blameless but have different life experiences and opportunities”

    So shouldn’t there be more focus on better prenatal and perinatal health care? Why don’t we have warning labels on alcohol & ads warning not to consume during pregnancy?

    Also there should more focus on ensuring children get better nutrition – perhaps through food vouchers in some cases? Childhood malnutrition is linked to poor brain functioning (low IQ) and conduct disorder in early adulthood.

  30. Vanilla Eis 31

    Excellent OpEd piece by Tapu Misa in the Herald today:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10535877

  31. Bill 32

    I stand ready to be corrected. But isn’t the idea of parole a carrot that gives a prisoner an incentive to ‘change their ways’ and by doing so be entered back into the community a ‘better’ person?

    If ex-prisoners are re-offending, the problem is not, surely, the length of sentence, but the quality of rehabilitation programmes (or lack of) on offer. ( plus all the other determinants from poverty to addiction to lack of achievement, marketable skills, peer pressure and gawd knows what else)

    If some violent crime recurs after three years in jail, what difference will a seven year sentence with no prospect of parole make? None!

    The number of violent offenders coming back on to the streets will be exactly the same as now in the long run and they may well be angrier due to having been left to rot longer with no incentive offered them to ‘mend their ways’.

    Of course, the prisons could be privatised and become a nice little earner for some; profiteering on the back of wasted life’s and wasted public money. Now there’s a novel idea, innit.

  32. Ianmac 33

    It may be that there are (about 100 the experts say) people alive in NZ who could be classed as hopelessly “evil”. I believe that the courts and associated experts already have the means, and use them, to contain these seriously bad ‘uns. Therefore I think that the National policy would change very little and would qualify as populist and given that John Key could only quote Sensible Sentencing Trust as his adviser, it is a bad call for National. Also if you are committed by law to block all hope to a prisoner, then what incentive is there for him to at least demonstrate any sort of cooperation, or reform?

  33. Ari 34

    if you ever get the chance however have a chat to some professionals who work in forensic psychiatry many of those I have met over the years suggest that there are some people who are just plain evil.

    Knowing plenty of police, criminologists, psychologists, and the like, I can with confidence inform you that you are plain wrong, even if you hold quite a common belief. (sadly)

    Most criminals commit crimes because it seemed like a good option to them at the time. Most of them are about as rational, and sometimes even as empathic, as anyone you’re likely to run into on the street. Perhaps you even knew this.

    There are some people that don’t have a normal moral compass. Some of them just don’t think of other people as people the same way we do. (sometimes I suspect a few of these types are actually in Parliament after listening to the National Party) Some don’t even know what they’re doing. These people we have a genuine reason to be sorry for, I think, even when they do terrible things, as it’s very hard to say they actually carry any real sort of responsibility for their actions. It’s the reason we have an insanity plea, of course.

    But the only reason people ever deliberately try to be “evil” is because they’ve let someone else define them that way over and over again until they accepted it and embraced it and did terrible things because of it, and have lost the will to become something better. Nobody is “just evil”- they became that way because of pressures on them. That’s not to say they’re not responsible for their behaviour- of course they are- but it is to say that the sort of people you’re talking about are, in one way or another, the product of terrible mistakes by the people who have known them and been significant influences on them. Nobody is “just” evil. They approximate it because they’ve been made to think that that’s all they can be.

  34. Janet 35

    Evil is too easy a label for people’s whose behaviour or attitudes appal you. It is a close relation of hate. We could all practice to be better humans by trying to to see the humanity in those people we fear or intensely dislike the most. Barack Obama writes in the Audacity of Hope about the humanity of George W, even though he dislikes what he does, and condemns the effects of his behaviour (like the war). I think that’s pretty inspirational.

  35. Bill 36

    Ben R.

    Nutrition and food vouchers.

    For calorie intake it appears that it is far cheaper to buy high fat/salt/sugar foods than recognisably healthier foods.

    I’ve lost the link (was on the Guardian) but somebody did a study on food energy costs and surprise, surprise found that whereas 2p worth of chips = 100 calories, it would require 26p of broccoli. I can’t remember the other figures, but orange squash versus orange juice had a similar cost gap as did the other comparisons

    So, you don’t have two brass tacks to rub together and you need energy….not nutrition, energy. Nutrition is a luxury.

    On food vouchers. What is the fucking point when such a massive number of people simply don’t know how to cook? Or if they do, then because the household is at work all day and there are maybe five or six people to cook for every night….time…and those wonderful products of Capitalism, the food corporations, have so many of us hook, line and sinker addicted to fat, sugar and salt…fast food takeaway, TV dinners…slop and drop gunk to get us by and up in time for the next shift in the next day of the rest of our life’s.

    How about a four hour working day so that people have the time to eat properly and healthily? There’s an idea. You think your grandmother made that soup in a jiffy? You think the home made meat pie was a five minute pre-mix? And while I’m ranting a tad I might as well ask, ” Where are the fucking giblets?!”

    You can’t make chicken stock without giblets and they ain’t stuck up the arse of the chicken in a wee poly bag as they used to be.

  36. Ben R 37

    “On food vouchers. What is the f*cking point when such a massive number of people simply don’t know how to cook?”

    Make them fruit & vegetable vouchers. I thought the voucher (or card for other child health, clothing essentials) would be only for WINZ beneficiaries. Perhaps you could fund cooking classes too?

  37. burt 38

    Janet

    We could all practice to be better humans by trying to to see the humanity in those people we fear or intensely dislike the most.

    So will you be inviting Burton to stay at your place for a few months while he gets back on his feet (foot) next time he is released. Actually he must be almost about to be released, he’s been locked up for more than 1% of his sentence.

  38. Bill 39

    Ben R

    Vegetables still need to be cooked, but that aside are you acknowledging that WINZ payments are too low and need to be raised or do you envisage replacing a portion of benefit income with vouchers?

    ‘Cause that (the latter option) would be a bit like an electricity company installing pre-paid meters and then claiming to be ‘nice guys’ on the back of disconnection numbers dropping.

    An ‘out of sight of mind’ mentality.

  39. rave 40

    Outofbed

    Vote mate your too funny to abstain.

    National is poison. Reason and Ridicule is the antidote.

    Peter Williams was righteous!

  40. Ben R 41

    “Vegetables still need to be cooked, but that aside are you acknowledging that WINZ payments are too low and need to be raised or do you envisage replacing a portion of benefit income with vouchers?”

    I don’t know if they’re too low, but I think improving nutrition is very important to help brain development. Food vouchers could possibly assist. The portion of the benefit I was thinking of was the child benefit to ensure that it actually gets spent on child related items (food, clothing, medicine etc).

  41. Janet 42

    Burt
    Burton (see even your names show a shared humanity) probably has a good side as he has family members who like him. But he is already one of those who will never be let out.
    I imagine he had some pretty horrific experiences to grow him from an innocent baby into a bit of a psychopath. That doesn’t mean that he is at the end of his potential development. Good rehabilitation and restorative justice processes may cause positive change. Who are you to say? Are you a professional in that area?
    There are people I fear more than a prisoner in a wheelchair.

  42. Jane 43

    Janet, as much as I agree with the idea that people aren’t born ‘evil’, there are some people who are not able to be rehabilitated.

    These are the people who are known as ‘psychopaths'(I use this to refer to people who kill without remorse) and do not feel empathy or compassion… they are not INSANE- they are definitely mentally challenged though. Most have had terrible upbringings and a large number suffer from reduced frontal lobe activity (the part of the brain that moderates behaviour.) Some people have a genetic disposition towards sociopathy but can live mostly normal lives on the fringe of society. However some of these people experience specific life experiences that actually render them incapable of living in society. Thats why the number of people that cannot safely be rehabilitated is low.

    INSANE usually means the person is incapacitated and doesn’t realise that what they are doing is wrong.

    However, psychopaths actually do know the difference between right and wrong. The problem is, they are either emotionally incapable of caring whether they behave within societies expectations of normal behaviour or through some life experience have learned to gain pleasure or feelings of power from breaking the norms.

    These people cannot be deprogrammed especially after a certain age. It is ludicrous to suggest that NZ’s most violent can be rehabilitated. Unfortunately, they are too far gone. They stll have a right to life and should be kept in prison for the rest of their natural lives- they should have access to psychiatrists to help where possible but the care they recieve will in no way make them safe to be released nto the community. It is too much of a risk.

    There is far far more to this topic than just ‘good person, bad decision- they can be fixed’. Unfortunately the abnormal brain function present in psychopaths is not reversible. Bear in mind I am referring to the likes of Burton, Hotene, and Wiliam Bell.

    Some younger less fucked up criminals can be rehabilitated but there is a small percentage who cannot.

  43. Jane 44

    Also- as a person with strong humanitaran views myself, I believe that IT IS BY FAR THE MOST humanitarian thing for these people to be locked up- not just for society, but for themselves.

    And yes, I am an expert in the field 🙂

  44. r0b 45

    Most have had terrible upbringings and a large number suffer from reduced frontal lobe activity (the part of the brain that moderates behaviour.) … Unfortunately the abnormal brain function present in psychopaths is not reversible.

    If you’re an expert then you know that you are overselling the brain function story here. All you can confidently claim is that frontal lobe dysfunction can increase the probability of aggression (and then more for reactive rather than instrumental aggression).

    I agree that there will always be some who can’t be rehabilitated, but how many? And how do we decide in individual cases? Any process of deciding is going to involve a consensus expert opinion that is going to look an awful lot like the parole process.

  45. rave 46

    Well until we find out who are the irredeemble we have to lock them all up, lobotomise their frontal lobes, fill em full of antidepressants, curfew them, cut off their benefits, put them in boot camp, fill them full of booze, melanise them, force them to play computer games, digitalise their identity, patronise them, and then… we will find that they are all irredeemable and we will feel so smug. Even more smug than when we started. But we are entitled to feel smug because we are the victims.

    I suggest that we euthenise capitalism instead.

  46. Ben R 47

    “I suggest that we euthenise capitalism instead.”

    And crime will go away?

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