Justice reform

Today’s ODT editorial looks at plans for justice reform – in particular, looking at ways to turn around the growth in prison population.

Justice Minister Andrew Little is embarking on a task which is sure to divide New Zealand, as most people have strong views on prisons, probation and sentences.

Mr Little, who is already developing into one of the Government’s most considered ministers, is proposing reform to the country’s criminal justice system and a rejection of “getting tough on crime”, a view long-held by many politicians and voters.

In the past, judges have been criticised for being too lenient  with  repeat offenders. Some of those on bail have gone on to commit horrific crimes even as they await trial. On those occasions public opinion swings behind law and order groups, calling on judges to impose the maximum sentences allowed. The calls for offenders to be denied bail to prevent them from reoffending grow louder.

Mr Little sees things differently and his vision has been  called the boldest political move in criminal justice since former justice minister Ralph Hannan convinced his National Party colleagues to abolish the death penalty in 1961.

There are many studies showing the benefits of a lower prison population, and not all of them are financial.

Mr Little says the rapid rise in prison numbers follows 30 years of public policy-making, and public discourse, that says New Zealand needs tougher sentences, more sentencing, more people serving longer sentences and the criminalising of more behaviour.

The major challenge is convincing the public what has been done for 30 years in criminal justice reform is not working. Violent offending is, in fact, increasing.

The pledge by Mr Little comes at a time when the Department of Corrections is facing major problems in housing the nearly 10,700 prisoners already incarcerated. There is room only for another 300.

Mr Little has taken on an admirable challenge by providing his vision for the justice system. He will need considerable strength to overcome the prejudicial views of a sceptical public.

‘ Tough on crime’, increasing the number of police officers and increasing sentences have been politically popular for some time, but they have not been notably successful.

I hope that Little includes a review of failed drug laws and considers alternatives to the current mess.

23 Comments

  1. Missy

     /  March 3, 2018

    I think that some reform regarding low level offending is definitely needed, for violent and recidivist offenders I am not sure how the population will accept any form of reform that may be perceived to be a softening of punishment for those criminals. I am willing to see what he comes up with.

    The only thing I would not like to see is them going the route of a previous policy where a person accused of a sexual assault – or other sexual offence – has the presumption of guilty and is required to prove their innocence as opposed to the state proving their guilt.

    • PDB

       /  March 3, 2018

      Not sure why you have downticks – surprised anyone would be in favour of letting our worst criminals out of jail just to artificially lower the prison population and/or for people to be presumed guilty and then have to prove their innocence.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  March 3, 2018

        The PDT doesn’t need a reason, I fear.

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  March 3, 2018

    Prison is largely a symptom of failure rather than a cure. Finding real cures is likely to be a thankless task beset by critics. Good luck, Andrew. You will need it.

      • NOEL

         /  March 3, 2018

        Interesting is that the 12 percent for drug offences most were for supplying meth.

      • PDB

         /  March 3, 2018

        Looking at that report just about all the prison population growth is in prisoners being locked up for sexual and/or violence related crimes – good luck to Little if he wants to go easier on these people.

        The last govt realised that targeted social investment was needed to break the cycle of serious crime and that it would take decades to see results of such an approach. Sadly it seems the new govt is wanting to treat the problem with ambulance at the bottom of the cliff type thinking.

        The increase in violent/ sexual offending could well be down to an age where more of these crimes are being reported and followed through in the courts when many victims would have been silent in the past. Police are also nowadays far better equipt to deal with such issues, better resourced with better technology.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  March 3, 2018

        An interesting statistic in the intro that 3/4 of people Corrections manages are in the community rather than jail.

        Invites the thought that the divisions between welfare/education/health and police/corrections departments are obsolete and need redesign. Corrections wants offenders not to reoffend. Welfare, education and mental health should want their clients not to offend in the first place.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  March 3, 2018

          That’s a counsel of perfection.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  March 3, 2018

            Really? It’s more a case of responsibility for troubled people shared between too many agencies.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  March 3, 2018

              There will never be no criminals. I don’t believe that anywhere has none at all.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  March 3, 2018

              I don’t know why you think that is relevant.

  3. Gezza

     /  March 3, 2018

    Mr Little, who is already developing into one of the Government’s most considered ministers…
    Who’s the other one?

  4. Trevors_elbow

     /  March 3, 2018

    Violent offenders deserve no mercy… and by that I dont mean a guy who gets in a fight on a Saturday night and never offends again. I mean the hardcore violent scum we have infesting our lower socio-economic suburbs and towns….

    P pushers no mercy.

    Lock gang members and career crims up for very long stretches and segregate them from other inmates so they can’t intimidate or recruit inside..

    Little is courting disaster… one go soft sentence leading to another killing will bring political hell down on his Government and party….

    By the by… lets admit community care does work for the seriously mentally ill and lets build more secure non prison institutions to look after the mad…. they deserve better than being locked up with gangsters

    • NOEL

       /  March 3, 2018

      There has been an impression created that a lot of people are in prison purely for the possession of drugs. Factually most people with possession on the first offence will get off with a warning and often for the second offence. After that it more probably a non custodial sentence is imposed which explains why most of those in the prison stats are for meth dealing.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  March 3, 2018

        Meth dealing is an economic crime created and sustained by poor drug policy.

        • NOEL

           /  March 3, 2018

          Does that mean burglary is a result of poor theft policy?

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  March 3, 2018

            It’s certainly an economic crime like fraud and theft but unlike meth dealing the level of profit and incentive is not created by legislative intervention.

          • PartisanZ

             /  March 3, 2018

            At least SOME burglary is the result of poor economic policy … as it was in Victorian England …

            “And we’ll provide the Grand Design …
            What is YOURS … and what is MINE …”

            The Eagles – ‘The Last Resort’

            ‘Social Investment’? Where?

            “In 2009, following the ‘Drivers of Crime’ forum, the National led Government established four priority areas to reduce crime in New Zealand.

            This included improving support for maternity services and early parenting, addressing conduct and behavioural problems in childhood, reducing the social destruction caused by alcohol (and increasing treatment options for problem drinkers), and improving the management of low-level repeat offenders …

            … When the issue of the purchase age reached the floor of parliament in August 2012, MPs voted to keep the purchase age at 18.

            Around the same time, Justice Minister Judith Collins also revealed she had dumped a plan to ban the sale of RTDs (ready-to-drink) with more than 6 per cent alcohol content.

            After meeting with liquor industry representatives, Collins agreed to allow the liquor industry to make its own regulations on RTD’s instead.

            Phew … At least they’ve gone! Good luck Andrew. Anything but anything’s gotta be better than this kinda SHITE.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_New_Zealand#Addressing_the_drivers_of_crime

            https://brookingblog.com/2015/05/31/crime-in-new-zealand-wikipedia-page/

        • Kevin

           /  March 4, 2018

          Allow for a legal but controlled methamphetamine market – eg sales to those over 21, limited to licensed places. And while allowing the legal sale of meth under any circumstances may be immoral to some (including myself) it’s a much better option than having a black market monopoly.

  5. Zedd

     /  March 3, 2018

    tautoko PG
    esp. the last line ! 🙂

    • Kevin

       /  March 3, 2018

      I’ve made my submission to the select committee. I state very clearly that Prohibition has done nothing to decrease use and I’ve even supplied evidence. Not that it’d do much but at least it might make one or two of them start asking questions.

      • Zedd

         /  March 3, 2018

        good onya kevin
        the more the merrier 🙂