Update on 3 strikes

Graeme Edgeler has obtained better statistics related to 3 strikes offending and recidivism that suggests there is a bit of a reduction in recidivism rates that may or may not be due to deterrence from 3 strikes – due to longer sentences it may simply be that longer sentences delays the opportunity to re-offend.

Three Strikes five years on! Now with accurate numbers!

A month ago, I retracted a piece I wrote in 2015 looking at the first five years of the three strikes sentencing regime for serious violent crime, attempting to see how the first five years after three strikes compared to the five years before three strikes.

As detailed in that retraction, the comparisons I then made were invalid. The two sets of data I was comparing were not comparable. I now have this data, following contact by the Ministry of Justice after my retraction (and Nikki Macdonald’s excellent work in the Dominion Post) was published

The comparison between the years before and after the coming into force is less stark, but there remains a reduction in strike recidivism beyond that in strike crime generally.

The extent to which this fall can be attributed to three strikes remains anyone’s guess.

In the five years prior to three strikes:

  • 5517 people were convicted of an offence where that conviction would have been a ‘first strike’ had three strikes been in force at the time
  • 103 were convicted of an offence that would have been a ‘second strike’

In the first five years after three strikes came into effect:

  • 5248 offenders received a ‘first strike’ (that is, a “stage-1 conviction” under the three strikes sentencing regime)
  • 68 offenders received a ‘second strike’.

That’s a reduction in offences of about 5%, and a reduction of 34% in second strike offences, albeit on low numbers.

In addition, no-one was convicted of a third strikes in three strikes’ first five years, while four people were convicted of what would have been third strikes in the preceding five years, and two of them also racked up what would have been fourth strikes.

The bald numbers provide no evidence that the existence of formal strike warnings has a deterrent effect, and arguments about what caused.

Correlation but not necessarily causation.

Though the numbers are low, the lack of third and fourth strikes could well be a consequence of incapacity, rather than deterrence – a second strike conviction means the offender is ineligible for parole, so result in longer times spent in prison.

So the jury is still out on the effectiveness of 3 strikes.

But imprisonment numbers continue to increase, as do the associated costs.

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  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  3rd January 2017

    Presumably the increased imprisonment rates have nothing to do with the three strikes regime since numbers affected by that have dropped?

  2. duperez

     /  3rd January 2017

    Factors relating to crime are complex and using data and drawing conclusions is a fraught business. Oh, unless it’s for political purposes, then it’s simple.

    I remember community discussions at the time of the introduction of Tomorrows Schools and asking the questions “Will the changes mean improved learning for kids and how will you know?”

    “Could well be” and “might be” become currency and enjoy a firmness of status.

    In light of that it could be that the best thing to come out of the threes strikes regime is that some would-be miscreants are kept off the streets arguing about 5248 offenders, pontificating about a 3.7% change and what it all means.

    That besides us oldies being tucked up safe at home thinking that something of great significance was done to keep us even safer. A bit like the crushing of boy racers’ cars.

    • Brown

       /  3rd January 2017

      I get nervous about crushing stuff for annoying but non violent behaviour because I see that opening a door to pick on old people who may do something stupid/clever once in a blue moon – like me doing a handbrake turn on a gravel patch or popping a wheelie on the bike to make the kids in the car adjacent smile. We know the police eventually target soft options rather than deal with problems the legislation may have intended be addressed – like stopping 2000 something cars at a check point and catching no one drunk – two years in a row. Or stopping people curious about end of life options at the same sort of check point.

      Three strikes is different because you have to be violent to get stuck with these consequences and repeated violence from shit bags who will not learn annoys me.

      • duperez

         /  3rd January 2017

        It’s not about crushing stuff though is it? It’s about old people behind their shut doors being content and happy thinking that a major difference has been made and they can live happily ever after extolling the virtues of those attributed with making that earth shattering difference.

        • Meantime … “imprisonment numbers continue to increase, as do the associated costs.”

          Success!!! Well … Could be … Might be …

          • PnZ. Serious crims [both violent and serial fraudsters] and gang members should be inside for prolonged and uncomfortable stays. Then they have no chance of 1) reoffending, 2) recruiting/indoctrinating others into there nasty lifestyle. Murder should be a mandatory no return sentence – you take a life your gone for the rest o fyour natural.

            And before you start with the “gangs are all just an alternative whanau approach” yada yada… I’m all down with people getting to together and helping each other out, even living an alternative type of lifestyle. But that is not what gangs do – and if your honest you would know that is the truth.

            Gangs live off proceeds of crime: P, coercion – whether as stand over debt collectors or pimps of lost young women, and also participate in a lot of nasty violent activity. For the violence I couldn’t care less if it was direct at each other but it inevitably spills over and impacts on innocent non gang members

            And yes I am totally for getting youth and segregating them from general prison populations and trying intensive rehabilitation approaches including managing the first 18 months out of the can, reading and writing remedial courses, learning to drive and getting a licence. I am for not letting first offenders and youth offenders roll out the prison gates with no support.

            And I am for cannabis decriminalisation – people shouldn’t go in to the system for stupefying their minds with weed.

            As for rising prison populations and costs – I couldn’t care less. I would rather the national budget has an extra Billion add to it if it means few murders and few rapes…

            • Blazer

               /  3rd January 2017

              Dave I say Dave,I’m surprised you put these in the same ‘basket’…

              ‘Serious crims [both violent and serial fraudsters] ‘….you know very well they will never be treated the same,even though the despair and ruin the latter cause is astronomical.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  3rd January 2017

              Brown, you can’t have witnessed any boy racers or you’d know what damage they do. I was unlucky enough to live next to a house that was at one stage, rented by these pests, Everyone had to keep all windows and doors closed at times because of the fumes and noise as they spun and did various tyre-stripping stunts. The smoke made that part of the street look as if a house was on fire-it was impossible to see through it. You should have seen the road surface.

              Tonight’s news ahowed the kind of damage that these fools do-not to mention the danger that they put themselves and other people in-and there was film of idiots doing things like screeching around blind corners on roads with sheer drops on one side.

            • NOEL

               /  3rd January 2017

              Gang crime has reduced in Queensland with the no association law.
              If there are two riding together it’s one of you on your bike elsewhere.
              Similar national banning of two or more wearing patches would stop group intimidation here.

              At the present time the recidivists quickly tick all the boxes before release but have no intention of changing.

              Rehabilitation only works on a small minority of the prison population.

              I agree with separating recidivist youth offenders from the community they cause so much hurt to.

            • @ dave1924 – This is great! I don’t need to debate or question you. You do it yourself on my behalf, assuming I will take THiS stance or ThAT … I AM redundant in your shadow boxing match … I don’t have much to say about most of it anyway …

              One might argue that unless they stay in prison until they die, 1) the longer a criminal remains in prison the more likely they are to re-offend. Prisons are, apparently, schools for crime. Likewise 2) Recruiting and indoctrination are probably best done in prison crime schools. Go in for harmlessly growing dope, come out an armed robber …

              Rising prison populations and costs is one of the most potent ‘canaries’ in our ‘mine tunnel’ society IMHO – among the ultimate ‘ambulance at the bottom’ scenarios – symptomatic of society’s failure to imbue a whole portion of the population with any sense of belonging, self-realising education, ethical sense, empathy and life-meaning, quite apart from work, relative equality and prosperity …

              If, for arguments sake, the above could be accomplished – I’m not niave enough to think there will ever be zero criminals – what I’m sure we’d find is almost all the remaining ‘criminals’ in our society were actually mentally and emotionally ill, and should be in secure psychiatric institutions rather than ‘lock up’ prisons …

              This may already be true of a majority of hardened criminals? Personally I think it likely. Much crime is ‘acting out’ of mental illness.

              @ NOEL – What are the similarities between Aotearoa NZ and Queensland that make you think “Similar national banning of two or more wearing patches would stop group intimidation here”? Is it the ethnicity of Australian gangs? Or perhaps Australian police carrying sidearms?

              More prisons and harsher sentences are unlikely to solve these problems. They might keep a few people locked away who would reoffend. But they’re a stain on our society, they’ll cost more, create slightly more employment for Corrections Officers, until this role becomes largely mechanised, and probably churn out more criminals regardless …

            • First:

              “You do it yourself on my behalf, assuming I will take THiS stance or ThAT … I AM redundant in your shadow boxing match ”

              This – grow up PnZ. You have used the gangs are just alternate whanau bullshit before. So I called it out before you trotted it out…

            • Second…

              ” symptomatic of society’s failure to imbue a whole portion of the population with any sense of belonging, self-realising education, ethical sense, empathy and life-meaning, quite apart from work, relative equality and prosperity”

              ooooh look its the “Its all societys fault” argument.

              That just doesn’t fly sorry. If you violent assault another citizen you can’t claim its because society doesn’t love you…. Its the weakest sociological argument of all time. Its lead to a dropping of all sorts of consequences in day to day life, which has lead us to where we are now….

              My argument is clear. Target gangs. Make their lifes miserable and punish them hard when convicted, bt keep them separate from other prisoners.

              Murder your gone for life. No chance for a Rufus Marsh to firstly kick someone to death on the streets in a callous attack and then be released to murder a woman in her own home…. No chance for a Graeme Burton to cold heartedly stab an innocent to death because he’d been kicked out of a club do his time then get released to commit multiple stand overs then a cold hearted killing of an innocent Wainui boy just out trail riding..

              An if you violently mental unwell.. again – secure facilites where you get treatment but are away from the populace at large. One of biggest crimes of political decision making of the last 30 odd years was closing our secure facilities for the mentally unwell with violent tendencies…. No one should have to trust to an unwell person taking their meds to ensure everyone else is safe…

            • Gezza

               /  3rd January 2017

              Nice. Well put PZ.

            • More shadow boxing dave! Dance like a Dodo Bird … sting like a flea …

              … to be continued …

            • @ dave – I don’t have enough information to justify gangs. Conversely, because they exist I believe they cannot be entirely ‘bad’ … and yes, they may provide some sense of ‘family’ or whanau for their members …

              This might depend upon what their individual families-of-origin are like? ‘Once Were Warriors’ portrays the oldest son finding ‘belonging’ in a violent gang compared to his violent and dysfunctional family …

              Your typical over-reaction to anything I say is exemplified by your “ooooh look its the “Its all societys fault” argument” …

              As is so often the case, your problem is I didn’t actually say that. I said “symptomatic”. This does not exclude personal, individual responsibility – when you stand in the dock you stand alone – but recognises that individuals are born and raised in families, have parents and siblings [usually], extended families, neighbourhoods, schools, friends and maybe enemies, happy experiences and traumatic, engage with the health system, pay rent to landlords (or are landlords) – thus paying rates to local government – work for employers, are self-employed or are employers – and consequently pay tax to central government – who they also get to vote for … Perhaps there are occasions when family should stand in the dock too?

              Personally I consider that to say in one breath that schooling is compulsory and in the next that it does not influence and hence bear some responsibility for an individual’s behaviour is an exercise in barren and utter stupidity …

            • “that schooling is compulsory and in the next that it does not influence and hence bear some responsibility for an individual’s behaviour is an exercise in barren and utter stupidity …” oh look its societys fault again via compulsory schooling. The most important education comes at home and from family… but no its schooling.

              Keep twanging those cords PnZ – eventually society will be wrong I am sure..

            • Gezza

               /  4th January 2017

              Some please put the lid back on the container of hyperbolic acid, the fumes are affecting everyone in the room.

            • Go away Gezza… I’m just discussing things with PnZ…

            • Gezza

               /  4th January 2017

              * Someone. They’ve affected my proof-reading abilities now! And banging feverishly on the ‘cancel reply’ link on this feckin iPad is a complete & utter waste of time. It always just totally ignores it. 😡

            • Gezza

               /  4th January 2017

              @ dave. Righto. 👍
              I just worry this is all going to end in sneers.

            • Conspiratoor

               /  4th January 2017

              G, don’t sweat it, give the iPad a break. Most folks would have subconsciously corrected the error thanks to ephemeral brain signals called gamma oscillations.
              Have stored ‘hyperbolic acid’ away for later. It’s right up there with ‘lickspittle’. Hope to see a lot more of them both in the coming year. Cheers,c

  3. Klik Bate

     /  3rd January 2017

    When seeking the answer to preventing recidivism involving particular crimes, maybe we could look to some of the more advanced countries of the world for a guaranteed ‘cure’…..

    • Klik Bate

       /  3rd January 2017

      @ 5:40pm

      Looking at the poll so far, I find it amazing that those who have actually ‘Rated’ this post, are 2-1 in favor of child molesters……and I thought this blog was actually more ‘right’ leaning.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  3rd January 2017

        The fact that many child molesters were molested themselves is a worry. But two men I know who were would die before they’d do it themselves. It’s a fair bet that the young girl who was encouraging a friend’s younger son in as much of a version of a sex act as he could do (not much) had been taught this by someone else; we never knew, of course.

        I am 100% in favour of programmes that teach molesters to see why they molest children-money well spent.

      • @ Klik Bate @ 9:07pm – I am not in favour of killing child molesters, therefore it follows logically, does it not, that I am in favour of child molesters and child molestation? Am I then equally culpable …? Is there a bullet with my name on it too …?

        If you are not with us, we Nazi Germans, you must be against us … and therefore you must be for the Juden … a Jew collaborator …

        I’m very glad to see that this blog is more ‘right thinking’ than even I expected. Here’s to the downtickers!

        There are screes of statistics from all over the world attesting to the FACT that capital punishment does not deter crime.

        Also, FYI, the very last thing I want to see created in Aotearoa New Zealand is a situation where people can commit ‘suicide by child molestation’.

        Plenty of evidence of suicide by various crimes overseas, notably homicide, especially in your much vaunted USA, where people seem to believe bullets can fix everything.

        • Klik Bate

           /  4th January 2017

          I know we’ve had this discussion before Parti, and I again dismiss your first two paragraphs as being nothing more than utterly ridiculous!

          Nowhere have I ever said that ‘capital punishment deters crime’. What I do say, is that statistics from all over the world would attest, that a bullet to the head deters recidivism. FACT.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  3rd January 2017

      Those look like lip crayons 🙂

  4. No 3rd strikes …. apart from those on appeal by the crown after judges applied the “manifestly unfair” criteria..

    Various links on the state of appeals on 3rd strikes not applied, for those who are interested, can be found using the Google search term: 3rd strikes before NZ court of appeal

    Pete – It would be good to solicit David Garrett’s angle on this as I am sure he will have a differing view to to Mr Edgeler…

  5. And why is there support for 3 strikes??? Because the NZ Courts are bloody soft on the real hard core out there…

    Someone like this unfortunate motorcyclist killed recently….

    Recall twice to a life sentence and then let out a third time…..Life should mean life for thugs like this – no parole ever.


    • Klik Bate

       /  3rd January 2017

      The scumbag certainly had it coming Dave…..unfortunately, it came 24 years too late 😡

    • NOEL

       /  3rd January 2017

      Easy to blame the Courts but its the politicians who draft the legislation.
      It’s the Courts role to interpret the intent of the legislation.
      If the Judges perceive that that legislation requires a “soft” approach who should Joe Public direct his concerns to?

      • Gezza

         /  3rd January 2017

        Tough legislation that provides for judicial discretion in unforeseen situations where applying the maximum penalty would be manifestly unjust, like the 3 strikes law, means any concerns about the exercise of that discretion in sentencing should be directed to the judiciary.

        • Gezza

           /  3rd January 2017

          But concerns about the bailing, paroling, and sentences that allow the eventual release of serious offenders who are assessed pre-release or at bail hearings as at high risk of reoffending should be addressed to the politicians to ensure the legislation prevents their release.

  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  3rd January 2017

    Ideally prisoners who can be rehabilitated would be asap and released back into society to work to pay off reparations to those they had harmed. No good purpose would then be served by keeping them in prison any longer than necessary for the safety of the public and the rehabilitation component that requires involuntary detention.

    • I haven’t thought much about it before, but it suddenly seems decidedly odd that reparations are not mandatory for every crime where there’s a victim, and the greater the harm or number of victims, the greater the reparations.

      This would instantly provide perspective and make sense about crimes against property, fraud and white collar crime. Some big-time fraudsters would effectively have several lifetime’s sentence … Some small-time burglars might work off their reparations quite quickly and carry on a ‘normal’ life …

      Indeed, lifelong reparations for lifetime harm might be a better deterent than lifelong detention … provided, as you say Alan, rehab and public safety have been adequately accommodated …

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  3rd January 2017

        I think it would also do a lot to earn respect for the justice system, PZ, where at present it is often scorned and held in contempt by both perpetrators and victims.

        • Do you mean the justice system must earn our respect Alan?

          It has a ways to go in some areas IMHO. I could do nothing but scorn and hold it in contempt if I was dragged before it for cultivating and/or smoking marijuana. The fact I might get “a fair trial” (which I doubt actually) from a good old British courtroom, judge, barristers and jury wouldn’t endear me to the system prosecuting me …

          I guess this might be how some murderers and rapists feel? They didn’t do anything wrong, therefore why respect the system that holds them accountable …? This further fuels my feeling that all or nearly all such crimes are in reality the result of mental or emotional illness or perhaps in some cases congenital defect …?

          A person who believes that taking another person’s life, other than in self-defence, isn’t morally, ethically and legally wrong, surely can’t also be well?

      • Gezza

         /  3rd January 2017

        One part in particular in your comment above that I particularly liked & have wondered about is whether all or most of those incarcerated serious repeat violent or sexual offenders who reoffend are indeed mentally deranged, people who are for whatever reason psycholgically broken beyond repair, & always dangerous, & should be able to be diagnosed & classified and detained permanently as such earlier on. The William Bells, the Graham Burtons, the Rufus Marshes.

        • I hold not a shred of doubt that all those you’ve mentioned are seriously mentally ill Gezza. Whether they are beyond help is largely irrelevant, since they need treatment in detention rather than incarceration, and the treatment will tell …

  7. Alan Wilkinson

     /  3rd January 2017

    Quite a lot of useful facts in this article:

    An interesting claim is that longer sentences and more rigorous constraints on bail are actually reducing offending rates.

    • Gezza

       /  3rd January 2017

      Yes. Very informative. Bookmarked.

    • I’ll read that … although I’m sceptical about “actually reducing offending rates” …. that must explain the increasing prison population …?