web analytics

Truly sensible sentencing

Written By: - Date published: 3:17 pm, January 12th, 2009 - 16 comments
Categories: crime - Tags: , ,

“I’m not one for ideological stances; I support what works”, said John Key  in a speech to the Salvation Army in early 2007. Well now the challenge is on.

Steve posted earlier today calling for a “truce on the sentencing bidding war”, echoing the recent sentiment of Kim Workman, director of the Rethinking Crime and Punishment project. Mr Workman was responding to Judith Collins’ typically hard line view on punitive criminal “justice” in saying:

…it was understandable that the new Government wanted to make good on its law and order promises in the first 90 days of office.

But the growing view among public servants, the judiciary, and criminal justice advisers and providers, was that it was now time to “get smart” rather than “get tough”.

So will Key really “support what works” as he’s claimed so many times, or merely pander to the likes of Collins and McVicar?

16 comments on “Truly sensible sentencing ”

  1. Time has come to protect the public.

    IMHO that is smart thinking.

    Time has come to hold parole boards responsible.

  2. Rex Widerstrom 2

    The Parole Board does its best… I’m sure they don’t sit there going “clearly this bloke is gonna murder someone if we let him out, but to hell with it, let’s do it anyway”. Trouble is, they’re denied important information that would help them reach a decision… just the way juries often are.

    To cite but one example, as dad4justice has said elsewhere, and I’m in full agreement, prison officers are the ones who spend most time with an inmate when the latter’s guard is down and they’re acting ‘naturally’. But they’re given no input into the parole process. Instead some dopey prison administrator – who could barely recognise the prisoner, usually – writes a report and a psychologist forms an impression through observation over a fraction of the time prison officers do, and with the prisoner on their best behaviour.

    We’ve all heard of the cases where a psychopath has been released because they’ve fooled the board, but the corollary is that many people serve longer sentences than is necessary because the board are too scared of making an error based on the information they have.

    So, for instance, I’m working on the case of a girl whom the Court of Appeal said should be released last August. However that means she still has to make parole. But since one person in the prison hierarchy has said she should do a course on alcohol – a course he had nearly three years to put her on but didn’t; a course for which the waiting list is ridiculously long because not enough places are funded; a course which is available on the outside and could be made a condition of parole – she’s still locked up five months later.

    The time has come to overhaul parole, yes. But like sentencing, let’s approach it from the perspective of what works best for the wider community and not from the point of view of punishing someone (in this case the Parole Board) for the system’s failures.

    And yes, a_y_b, this will be a true test of Key’s character. Let’s see if he has a spine.

  3. QoT 3

    Darn right, Brett. Longer prison sentences for parole board members! And jurors! And defence counsel! Heck, let’s imprison the entire judicial system while we’re at it.

  4. Peter Burns 4

    That’s not the answer silly QoT, but as Justice John Hansen said at a Otago Uni Conference – “the administration of justice needs a radical rethink” is totally appropriate for this day and age in New Zealand.

  5. Peter Burns 5

    Moderation now? What for?? This will be interesting???

    [lprent: You jumped back on one of the Internet ranges targeting a known pain (I wonder who that was) 😈 ]

  6. Billy 6

    I doubt you will find anyone arguing get less smart. Only gap I am seeing here is: what is the smart alternative these geniuses are proposing?

  7. What does “get smart’ specifically mean in realtion to sentencing?

  8. @ work 8

    I doubt you will find anyone arguing get less smart.

    Thats basically what the sensible sentancing trust are arguing. They advocate ignoring all the research on the topic as it is done by ivory tower liberals, and that we need to get back too the good old days, and use “common sense” and populisim to decide policies on crime. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with democracy, I just wouldn’t fly on a plane built using it.

  9. Whero 9

    National will do what’s good for business – and what’s good for business is transferring the responsibilities of the State to the private sector and allowing businessmen to lock up our citizens and then charge – just another of the many examples of how private enterprise specialises in profiting from the misery of others.

    Expect longer sentences and more jails.

  10. Rex Widerstrom 10


    Read any of my comments on this issue and you’ll see I’m no fan of the present system or the SST. I also acknowledge that operators of private prisons such as Wackenhutt are abominable – indeed some of their practises should see them on the other side of the razor wire.

    OTOH, until a couple of years ago a private prison in WA used to be run by AIMS and it too was a mess. The government was, however, able to respond to that situation by cancelling their contract and issuing it to Serco. That same prison is now one of the best in the country (and quite possibly the world), has one of the best atmospheres inside – and hence has a queue of prisoners seeking to be transferred there from state-run prisons – and, because it’s paid on a number of results including reduced recidivism by prisoners released from it, has been extremely successful in reducing repeat offending, thus protecting the community. This latter measure is, in fact, something Serco apparently offers to include in all its prison contracts.

    It’s not a matter of rejecting private prisons out of hand, it’s a matter of choosing the right company to run them, and being intelligent about what goals you set them and how you pay them.


    A comprehensive answer to your question would require more space than a comment should take. Input from prison officers (who observe the prisoner in their unguarded moments and over a lengthy period, rather than on their best behaviour) is but one obvious low-cost idea that’s not taken up. Other things, such as a pro-active investigation of the support available to the prisoner when and if they’re released, rather than just taking the wordof them and their supporters, would be another, but costly, option. There’s much more… hopefully The Standard will keep debating this whole issue.

  11. mike 11

    Im a simple bloke and Ive always sort of felt that if a thief is in prison then he cant be on the street breaking into houses – so in this respect prison works – its stop him theiving.

    Prison would be much less populated if it was a place where no one ever wanted to return to….

    so get rid of the TV,s and other forms of entertainment. Make the food seriously uninteresting (but still good for ones health), and remove visiting all together, etc, etc.

    Then the prison population would really drop

  12. Mr Magoo 12

    Im a simple bloke and Ive always sort of felt…

    I am sorry, do you have a reference for that study?

    Oh, wait….

  13. schrodigerscat 13

    I was impressed to watch Criminal Justice on TV1 Monday, it goes some way to show that TV … is not going to make being in there ok.

    There are the people you are in there with, the almost complete lack of control over your life that you have, the disconnection with your normal life outside.

    This shown so far in the context of remand, where conviction has not occurred.

    It is a pretty sad indictment of our society if you think people want to return to prison.

  14. Matthew Pilott 14

    mike, you are indeed simple if you think “Prison would be much less populated if it was a place where no one ever wanted to return to “. Prisioners go back because they are unreformed, meaning they have not changed their criminal ways despite being caught and punished in the past.

    What you’re suggesting is that if prison was really bad, people would not reoffend. There’s very little to back this theory up (the very use of the death penalty being a fairly stark reminder of this point). What those who study this sort of thing are saying is that if we rehabilitate prisoners (drug and alcohol, anger management, employment, education or craft/apprenticeship-type experience), they won’t go back, not because they are scared of prison, but because they don’t wanna commit crime no more.

    An added benefit of the latter is that there will be less crime and fewer criminals, not the same level of crime with the same number of criminals simply more desperate to avoid being caught.

    I just very much doubt that your gulags will make anyone the slightest bit safer.

  15. Rex Widerstrom 15

    mike suggests:

    …remove visiting all together, etc, etc.

    Yes, because those damned elderly parents who’ve perhaps struggled all their lives to turn their child away from crime, the women (and a few men) struggling on their own now their partner is in prison, the kids that wonder why dad (or occasionally mum) isn’t with them any more… they’re the ones that really deserve to be punished, right?

    …if a thief is in prison then he cant be on the street breaking into houses…

    Because of course everyone who’s ever stolen anything is going to keep on doing so ad infinitum even if we were to improve his life so he had enough money and something to work for and strive towards…

    schrodigerscat notes:

    This shown so far in the context of remand, where conviction has not occurred.

    Oh come on, we’ll have none of this namby-pamby “innocent till proven guilty” bullshit thank you. I’m sure if mike is wrongfully arrested and imprisoned indefinitely whilst waiting for a crowded court calendar to find time for some underpaid, barely competent legal aid alwyer to plead his case he’ll be only too happy to consort with murderers and rapists, eat s**t food, not see his family and of course will turn down the chance to watch TV.

    Because it’s a well known fact (because Mr McVicar says so) that everyone in our prisons is guilty… that’s why “simple blokes” feel okay about treating them like something less than human.

    And hey, at least while mike’s inside his house will be perfectly safe because all those damned thieves will be locked up on indefinite detention in there with him, so every cloud has a silver lining and that…

  16. schrodigerscat 16

    Should really put a link in here
    More sense than McVicar and co.

    Yes Rex some good points for simple folk to consider.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • NZ announces a third P-3 deployment in support of UN sanctions
    The Government has deployed a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion (P-3) maritime patrol aircraft to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions imposing sanctions against North Korea, announced Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters and Minister of Defence Ron Mark. “New Zealand has long supported ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Pacific trade and development agreement a reality
    Pacific regional trade and development agreement PACER Plus will enter into force in 60 days now that the required eight countries have ratified it. Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker welcomed the announcement that the Cook Islands is the eighth nation to ratify this landmark agreement. “The agreement represents ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Securing a pipeline of teachers
    The Government is changing its approach to teacher recruitment as COVID-19 travel restrictions continue, by boosting a range of initiatives to get more Kiwis into teaching. “When we came into Government, we were faced with a teacher supply crisis,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said. “Over the past three years, we ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Border exceptions for a small number of international students with visas
    The Government has established a new category that will allow 250 international PhD and postgraduate students to enter New Zealand and continue their studies, in the latest set of border exceptions. “The health, safety and wellbeing of people in New Zealand remains the Government’s top priority. Tight border restrictions remain ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • First COVID-19 vaccine purchase agreement signed
    The Government has signed an agreement to purchase 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccines – enough for 750,000 people – from Pfizer and BioNTech, subject to the vaccine successfully completing all clinical trials and passing regulatory approvals in New Zealand, say Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods and Health Minister Chris Hipkins. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • International statement – End-to-end encryption and public safety
    We, the undersigned, support strong encryption, which plays a crucial role in protecting personal data, privacy, intellectual property, trade secrets and cyber security.  It also serves a vital purpose in repressive states to protect journalists, human rights defenders and other vulnerable people, as stated in the 2017 resolution of the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Ministry of Defence Biodefence Assessment released
    The Ministry of Defence has today released a Defence Assessment examining Defence’s role across the spectrum of biological hazards and threats facing New Zealand. Biodefence: Preparing for a New Era of Biological Hazards and Threats looks at how the NZDF supports other agencies’ biodefence activities, and considers the context of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Approaches to Economic Challenges: Confronting Planetary Emergencies: OECD 9 October 2020
    New Approaches to Economic Challenges: Confronting Planetary Emergencies: OECD 9 October 2020 Hon David Parker’s response following Thomas Piketty and Esther Duflo. Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, wherever in the world you might be. I first acknowledge the excellent thought provoking speeches of Thomas Piketty and Esther ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Kaipara Moana restoration takes next step
    A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed today at Waihāua Marae between the Crown, local iwi and councils to protect, restore and enhance the mauri of Kaipara Moana in Northland. Environment Minister David Parker signed the document on behalf of the Crown along with representatives from Ngā Maunga Whakahī, Ngāti ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand and Uruguay unite on reducing livestock production emissions
    Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Uruguayan Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries Carlos María Uriarte have welcomed the launch of a three-year project that will underpin sustainable livestock production in Uruguay, Argentina, and Costa Rica.  The project called ‘Innovation for pasture management’ is led by Uruguay’s National Institute of Agricultural ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • 3100 jobs created through marae upgrades
    Hundreds of marae throughout the country will be upgraded through investments from the Provincial Growth Fund’s refocused post COVID-19 funding to create jobs and put money into the pockets of local tradespeople and businesses, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta have announced. “A total ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Health volunteers recognised in annual awards
    Health Minister Chris Hipkins has announced 9 teams and 14 individuals are the recipients of this year’s Minister of Health Volunteer Awards.  “The health volunteer awards celebrate and recognise the thousands of dedicated health sector volunteers who give many hours of their time to help other New Zealanders,” Mr Hipkins ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Community COVID-19 Fund supports Pacific recovery
    The Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio says a total of 264 groups and individuals have successfully applied for the Pacific Aotearoa Community COVID-19 Recovery Fund, that will support Pacific communities drive their own COVID-19 recovery strategies, initiatives, and actions. “I am keen to see this Fund support Pacific ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Community benefits from Māori apprenticeships
    Up to 50 Māori apprentices in Wellington will receive paid training to build houses for their local communities, thanks to a $2.75 million investment from the Māori Trades and Training Fund, announced Employment Minister Willie Jackson today. “This funding will enable Ngāti Toa Rangatira Incorporated to provide its Ngā Kaimahi ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Training fund supports Māori jobseekers
    Rapidly growing sectors will benefit from a $990,000 Māori Trades and Training Fund investment which will see Wellington jobseekers supported into work, announced Employment Minister Willie Jackson today. “This funding will enable Sapphire Consultants Ltd. to help up to 45 Māori jobseekers into paid training initiatives over two years through ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Ruakura Inland Port development vital infrastructure for Waikato
    The Government is investing $40 million to develop an inland port at Ruakura which will become a freight super-hub and a future business, research and residential development for the Waikato, Urban Development and Transport Minister Phil Twyford, and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced today. The funding has been has ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Appointments made to Defence Expert Review Group
    Defence Minister Ron Mark announced today the establishment of an Expert Review Group to review a number of aspects of the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) structure, information management and record-keeping processes.  The Expert Review Group’s work arises out of the first recommendation from the Report of the Government’s Inquiry ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • No active community cases of COVID-19
    There are no active community cases of COVID-19 remaining in the country after the last people from the recent outbreak have recovered from the virus, Health Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “This is a big milestone. New Zealanders have once again through their collective actions squashed the virus. The systems ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Clean energy upgrade for more public buildings
    More public buildings will be supported by the Government to upgrade to run on clean energy, the Minister for Climate Change James Shaw announced today. Minister Shaw announced that Lincoln and Auckland universities will receive support through the Clean-Powered Public Service Fund to replace fossil fuel boilers. Southern, Taranaki, and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Schools back donations scheme for the second year
    More schools have opted in to the donations scheme for 2021, compared to 2020 when the scheme was introduced. “The families of more than 447,000 students will be better off next year, with 94% of eligible schools and kura opting into the scheme,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said. “This is ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Ruapehu cycle trails gets PGF boost
    The spectacular Mountains to Sea cycle trail in Ruapehu District will receive $4.6 million in funding from the Provincial Growth Fund for two additional trails, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced today. “This is an exciting development for the local community, and one that will provide significant economic opportunities ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago