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

  • Celebrating the Entry Into Force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
    [Opening comments, welcome and thank you to Auckland University etc] It is a great pleasure to be here this afternoon to celebrate such an historic occasion - the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This is a moment many feared would never come, but ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    9 hours ago
  • Supporting disabled people to stay connected
    The Government is providing $3 million in one-off seed funding to help disabled people around New Zealand stay connected and access support in their communities, Minister for Disability Issues, Carmel Sepuloni announced today. The funding will allow disability service providers to develop digital and community-based solutions over the next two ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    13 hours ago
  • Voluntary saliva testing offered to quarantine workers from Monday
    Border workers in quarantine facilities will be offered voluntary daily COVID-19 saliva tests in addition to their regular weekly testing, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. This additional option will be rolled out at the Jet Park Quarantine facility in Auckland starting on Monday 25 January, and then to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    16 hours ago
  • Next steps in firearms buy-back
    The next steps in the Government’s ambitious firearms reform programme to include a three-month buy-back have been announced by Police Minister Poto Williams today.  “The last buy-back and amnesty was unprecedented for New Zealand and was successful in collecting 60,297 firearms, modifying a further 5,630 firearms, and collecting 299,837 prohibited ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    17 hours ago
  • New Public Housing Plan announced
    The Government has released its Public Housing Plan 2021-2024 which outlines the intention of where 8,000 additional public and transitional housing places announced in Budget 2020, will go. “The Government is committed to continuing its public house build programme at pace and scale. The extra 8,000 homes – 6000 public ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Prime Minister congratulates President Joe Biden on his inauguration
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has congratulated President Joe Biden on his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States of America. “I look forward to building a close relationship with President Biden and working with him on issues that matter to both our countries,” Jacinda Ardern said. “New Zealand ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Jobs for Nature funding will create training and employment opportunities
    A major investment to tackle wilding pines in Mt Richmond will create jobs and help protect the area’s unique ecosystems, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says. The Mt Richmond Forest Park has unique ecosystems developed on mineral-rich geology, including taonga plant species found nowhere else in the country. “These special plant ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Pre-departure testing extended to all passengers to New Zealand
    To further protect New Zealand from COVID-19, the Government is extending pre-departure testing to all passengers to New Zealand except from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “The change will come into force for all flights arriving in New Zealand after 11:59pm (NZT) on Monday ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Bay Cadets learn skills to protect environment
    Bay Conservation Cadets launched with first intake Supported with $3.5 million grant Part of $1.245b Jobs for Nature programme to accelerate recover from Covid Cadets will learn skills to protect and enhance environment Environment Minister David Parker today welcomed the first intake of cadets at the launch of the Bay ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Cook Islanders to resume travel to New Zealand
    The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Mark Brown have announced passengers from the Cook Islands can resume quarantine-free travel into New Zealand from 21 January, enabling access to essential services such as health. “Following confirmation of the Cook Islands’ COVID ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Supporting communities and landowners to grow employment opportunities
    Jobs for Nature funding is being made available to conservation groups and landowners to employ staff and contractors in a move aimed at boosting local biodiversity-focused projects, Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan has announced. It is estimated some 400-plus jobs will be created with employment opportunities in ecology, restoration, trapping, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Border exception for some returning international tertiary students
    The Government has approved an exception class for 1000 international tertiary students, degree level and above, who began their study in New Zealand but were caught offshore when border restrictions began. The exception will allow students to return to New Zealand in stages from April 2021. “Our top priority continues ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Tiwai deal gives time for managed transition
    Today’s deal between Meridian and Rio Tinto for the Tiwai smelter to remain open another four years provides time for a managed transition for Southland. “The deal provides welcome certainty to the Southland community by protecting jobs and incomes as the region plans for the future. The Government is committed ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • New member for APEC Business Advisory Council
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appointed Anna Curzon to the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). The leader of each APEC economy appoints three private sector representatives to ABAC. ABAC provides advice to leaders annually on business priorities. “ABAC helps ensure that APEC’s work programme is informed by business community perspectives ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Govt’s careful economic management recognised
    The Government’s prudent fiscal management and strong policy programme in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic have been acknowledged by the credit rating agency Fitch. Fitch has today affirmed New Zealand’s local currency rating at AA+ with a stable outlook and foreign currency rating at AA with a positive ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Additional actions to keep COVID-19 out of NZ
    The Government is putting in place a suite of additional actions to protect New Zealand from COVID-19, including new emerging variants, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • 19 projects will clean up and protect waterways
    $36 million of Government funding alongside councils and others for 19 projects Investment will clean up and protect waterways and create local jobs Boots on the ground expected in Q2 of 2021 Funding part of the Jobs for Nature policy package A package of 19 projects will help clean up ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand Government acknowledges 175th anniversary of Battle of Ruapekapeka
    The commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka represents an opportunity for all New Zealanders to reflect on the role these conflicts have had in creating our modern nation, says Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Kiri Allan. “The Battle at Te Ruapekapeka Pā, which took ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Better care for babies with tongue-tie
    Babies born with tongue-tie will be assessed and treated consistently under new guidelines released by the Ministry of Health, Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall announced today. Around 5% to 10% of babies are born with a tongue-tie, or ankyloglossia, in New Zealand each year. At least half can ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison over
    The prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison is over, with all remaining prisoners now safely and securely detained, Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says. The majority of those involved in the event are members of the Mongols and Comancheros. Five of the men are deportees from Australia, with three subject to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Pre-departure COVID-19 test for travellers from the UK and the US from 15 January
    Travellers from the United Kingdom or the United States bound for New Zealand will be required to get a negative test result for COVID-19 before departing, and work is underway to extend the requirement to other long haul flights to New Zealand, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed today. “The new PCR test requirement, foreshadowed last ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago