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.