‘White supremacist’ to stay in prison for now

A warning two days ago:  Grandfather believes grandson may kill if released

“It’s merely a matter of time before he kills somebody.”

That’s the opinion of the grandfather of 22-year-old drug and alcohol addicted Frank Finch who was due to be released from custody this Friday.

His grandfather, Rod Finch, is pleading with agencies to deliver a secure release and rehabilitation plan which will keep both Finch, who has been diagnosed with a mental illness, and the public safe.

The call for urgency was further prompted by threats Finch allegedly made in prison, as well as a chilling two-page letter Finch’s grandfather says the young man sent to him after the Christchurch mosque attacks, in which he allegedly applauded the alleged gunman.

“He’s been on marijuana since he was about 10 years old, drinking and then harder drugs like P as he got older.” He was diagnosed with schizophrenia two years ago. “When he’s dry, he’s a loving, caring and highly intelligent young man, but nowadays it’s very rare to get him sober,” his grandfather said.

In 2015, Finch was imprisoned for three years on a raft of offences, including house burglaries, stealing electronics from Christchurch High Schools, and drive-off petrol thefts.

“You are 17 years old but you have the criminal history and actions of a much older man. You behave like a child. You have a lot of growing up to do,” the judge said at the time.

Last December, Finch was fresh out of prison when he was the passenger of a stolen car that crashed following a police pursuit. Finch was the sole survivor of the crash, which killed two others.

He is currently behind bars for breaching his court release conditions, but it was possible he’d be released at sentencing on Friday, a prospect which his grandfather feared.

For now Man described as dangerous white supremacist to remain in jail

Frank Finch, 22, will be imprisoned for crimes including theft and unlawfully getting into a motor vehicle, but the police have also laid an additional charge of threatening to kill, for which he appeared in the afternoon and will enter pleas on next month.

Citing psychiatric reports, Judge Anthony Couch said Finch clearly had no remorse and was likely to reoffend if released.

“The conclusion of the psychiatrist is that you lack motivation to make meaningful change in your life or to take any steps to avoid further offending. The psychiatrist also complains that you didn’t need extensive and long term support in a highly structured environment to gain the skills to even consider pursuing a viable life outside of prison,” he said.

Finch’s lawyer Allister Davis had asked for a sentence of intensive supervision, and speaking after the sentencing, he said the jail term was a missed opportunity.

“But that opportunity may arise again in the future. At the moment, we’ve got a young man with some pretty serious psychological problems and issues that’s in jail. I don’t believe that it’s helping him at all, but he’s done the crime has got to do the time I suppose,” he said.

At his second appearance this afternoon, Frank Finch was remanded in custody, and in three weeks he is expected to enter a plea.

It seems likely others will be pleading he  remains in prison and gets treatment. He seems to be obviously suffering from mental illness, but is also obviously potentially dangerous.

Fortunately there has been an overdue boost in funding for mental health treatment in this week’s budget, including:

Initiatives – Supporting mental health within the justice sector

Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court: Operational Support 2019/20

$0.7 million operating
This initiative funds the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court (AODT Court) so it will continue operating with dedicated police prosecutors, court co-ordinators and lawyer team leaders at the two pilot sites (Auckland and Waitakere) until it ends on 30 June 2020.

Increasing Access to Mental Health and Addiction Support

$124.4 million operating
$3.9 million capital

This initiative is part of the Budget package supporting the Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata – Safe and Effective Justice programme. This will improve the health, wellbeing and quality of life of vulnerable people in Corrections’ care by providing funding for mental health and addiction interventions.

This may or may not be enough or the right sort of help for people like Birch, but it is an attempt to address entrenched problems.

An attempt to address Māori reoffending rates launched

The biggest problem with Māori imprisonment levels is that too many Māori get involved in crime in the first place.

People identifying as Māori make up about 15% of the new Zealand population, but just over half of those in prison are Māori.

Ethnicity of Prisoners (March 2019)

However it is very difficult to deal with problems before they manifest themselves as criminal activities.  High recidivism rates are also a major problem.

Corrections: Re-imprisonment rates by ethnicity

The re-imprisonment rate over 48 months for Maori offenders (55%) is considerably higher than the rate for both NZ Europeans (45%) and Pacific offenders (36%).

graph-6

Overall recidivism rates are bad, but especially so for Māori

So the Government are trying to break the cycle of Māori reoffending and imprisonment with a new plan. It will take time to tell how effective it will be, but different ways of addressing the problem have to be tried to try and turn things around.

Announced yesterday:


A whānau-centred pathway to break the cycle of Māori reoffending

The Government has today announced it is taking action on the long-term challenge of Māori reoffending rates and delivering on its target to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent, with the creation of a new Māori Pathway at Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison and Northland Region Corrections Facility.

This initiative will be co-designed and implemented by Māori, with Corrections, Te Puni Kōkiri, and the Ministry for Social Development (MSD) working together in partnership with hapū and iwi. It will initially focus on Māori men under 30 years of age, as this group has the highest reconviction and reimprisonment rates. The Pathway will enable people to experience a kaupapa Māori and whānau-centred approach for all of their time with Corrections, from pre-sentence to reintegration and transition in their community.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says the $98 million Wellbeing Budget investment is a major first step in changing the way Corrections operates to help break the cycle of Māori reoffending and imprisonment.

“We are acknowledging that our system does not work for the majority of Māori. The answer is not another programme. This is a new pathway for people in prison and their whānau to walk together. This is a system change and a culture change for our prisons – and that change starts today,” Kelvin Davis said.

“The Māori Pathway delivers on a number of our Government’s priorities. It’s about reducing reoffending so there are fewer victims of crime, building closer partnerships with Māori, and enabling us to keep delivering on our target to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent.

“This is a great example of the Wellbeing approach in action, with a number of agencies working together to target long-term change.”

Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare acknowledges his colleagues Kelvin Davis and Carmel Sepuloni for being bold and taking a whānau-centred approach to their mahi.

“This is real progress towards incorporating Whānau Ora into their portfolios and agencies, extending Government support and buy-in to the Whānau Ora approach, as recommended by Tipu Mātoro ki te Ao,” Peeni Henare said.

“Whānau Ora successfully supports positive outcomes for whānau because it recognises the power of the collective and promotes self-determination. It is a holistic and strengths-based approach, allowing whānau to define and work towards their own aspirations. This is an important step for Government to improve whānau wellbeing.”

Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni says MSD is committed to supporting the person and their whānau to achieve their goals.

“This is an exciting initiative which aligns with recommendations in the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s report to improve outcomes for Māori and enhance support for people in prisons,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

Julian Assange sentenced to 50 weeks imprisonment

Julian Assange has been sentenced  to 50 weeks imprisonment in the UK on charges of skipping bail, which he did by holing up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden. So he has moved from a virtual prison into a real prison.

Reuters: Julian Assange sentenced to 50 weeks in British jail for skipping bail

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison by a British court on Wednesday for skipping bail when he holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy for seven years until police dragged him out last month.

The case in Britain arose after Australian-born Assange, 47, was accused by two Swedish women of sexual assault and rape in 2010. Assange fought through the courts to get an extradition order and the preliminary investigation dropped.

Assange sought refuge in the embassy in June 2012 to avoid an extradition order to Sweden.

His lawyer argued it was an act of desperation to avoid being passed to the United States to face action over the release of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

But handing down what was nearly the maximum possible sentence, Judge Deborah Taylor told Assange he had exploited his privileged position to flout the law and express his disdain for British justice.

“Whilst you may have had fears as to what may happen to you, nonetheless you had a choice,” Taylor told Assange, dressed in a black jacket and gray sweatshirt, at Southwark Crown Court.

“It is difficult to envisage a more serious example of this offence.”

And Assange still faces the possibility he will be extradited to the US.

Reuters: U.S. extradition request for Julian Assange to be heard on Thursday

A request by the United States to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for one of the biggest ever leaks of classified information will be heard by a London court on Thursday.

“Julian Assange will be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court at 1030 tomorrow for ‘violating his bail conditions’ whilst seeking & obtaining political asylum,” WikiLeaks said.

“On Thursday at 10AM there will be a hearing in Westminster Magistrate Court on the US extradition request,” it said.

The U.S. Justice Department said Assange was charged with conspiring with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to gain access to a government computer as part of a 2010 leak by WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of U.S. military reports about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and American diplomatic communications.

With the defence support he is likely to have this could be a lengthy process.

 

 

 

Hell, Pell

Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has gone right to the top, nearly. Cardinal George Pell haas just been imprisoned in Australia.

Stuff:  Cardinal George Pell spending his first night in jail for sexually abusing choirboys

Cardinal George Pell has been taken into custody and will spend his first night in a jail cell for sexually abusing two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral.

Pell was found guilty in December of orally raping a 13-year-old boy and molesting another after Sunday mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne in 1996.

He became the highest-ranking Catholic to be convicted of such crimes.

Pell’s defence team submitted 10 character references, including from former Australian prime minister John Howard.

“These people love him; none of them believe he is capable of these offences,” Richter said.

Richter said Pell was a man of the “highest character”.

“He relates to everyone from a prime minister to street beggars,” he said.

It’s not how he relates to ex Prime Ministers that’s at issue here, it’s how he related to choir boys.

“Cardinal George Pell has not applied for bail today,” lawyer Paul Galbally said in a statement.

“He believes it is appropriate for him to await his sentencing.

“Despite the unprecedented media coverage, Cardinal Pell has always and continues to maintain his innocence.”

His lawyers have lodged an appeal on three grounds, including that the jury verdict was unreasonable.

Robert Richter QC has argued his alleged offending was at the low end of the scale.

“This is no more than a plain, vanilla sexual penetration case where a child is not volunteering or actively participating,” he said.

What the hell?

Richter also said a “temporary loss of judgment” could not be ruled out.

But Judge Kidd pushed back, saying Pell had engaged in shocking conduct that allowed no “innocent explanation”.

“At the moment I see this as callous, brazen offending. Blatant,” the judge said.

“It leaves to me only one inference, which is at the time he thought he was going to get away with it.

He nearly did. He did for a long time. Protected by his power in a sexually corrupt Catholic Church.

More support proposed for released prisoners

Currently prisoners are released from prison with $350, only if they have photo ID. Immediate job prospects for many of them will be poor. It must be difficult to get set up and survive. It must be easy for them to quickly go back to old acquaintances and old habits, with a high chance of reoffending.

60% of prisoners are re-convicted within two years of release – but they will start re-offending sooner, possibly much sooner. And this only measures those who get caught.

NZ Herald: Released prisoners set up to fail due to poor support – justice advisory group

The Government is being urged to increase the amount of money it gives prisoners when they are released – if it wants them to stay out of jail.

The head of an advisory group on justice reforms said a payment of just $350 was setting prisoners up to fail, and many of them couldn’t even access it.

Chester Borrows, a former National Party Minister and chair of the Safe and Effective Justice Programme Advisory Group, wants the payment to double.

He said poor support was a major factor contributing to a high rate of reoffending.

Doubling it to $700 may not make much difference. You can’t survive for long on that.

The group will make recommendations to the Government to improve the criminal justice system – described by Justice Minister Andrew Little as “broken” – in an interim report in March, and a final report in August.

Little told the Herald he looked forward to the reports, but agreed that released prisoners needed more support.

Released prisoners can only get the $350, called the Steps to Freedom grant, if they have photo ID to set up a bank account. Many ex-prisoners did not have this, Borrows said.

“That’s supposed to give them accommodation and keep them fed for two weeks until their first benefit or pay packet”.

“If you’ve got to rent a room, you’ve got to pay a bond and usually a couple of week’s rent in advance – how are you going to do that? And you’re coming out with nothing in your cupboards. How much are two weeks’ groceries?

“And if they keep you in Christchurch because there’s no room in the Auckland Prison, and then release you in Christchurch and don’t pay for you to get home, how does that person get back to their family support? You would have to say that these people are set up to fail.”

I suspect that some people will not support ‘hand outs’ for crims, but the alternative, returning to a life of crime and ending up in prison again, will be a lot more expensive, and not just through the cost of incarceration but also the cost of crime to yhe public.

 

Bill Cosby sentenced to prison, counselling for life

After being found guilt of drugging and sexually assaulting a victim Bill Cosby has been sentenced to prison and lifetime counselling. The victim is just one of many woman who have claimed that Cosby assaulted them.

RNZ:  Bill Cosby sentenced to prison for sex assault

Cosby, 81, has also been categorised as a sexually violent predator, meaning he must undergo counselling for life and be listed on the sex offender registry.

At a retrial in April, Cosby was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault for drugging and molesting Andrea Constand in 2004.

Ahead of the sentence, Judge Steven O’Neill designated Cosby a sexually violent predator, despite the defence’s argument that Cosby’s age and blindness mean he is not a threat.

Tuesday’s classification means he will need to register with state police and notify any community he lives in of his sex offender status, as well as undergo mandatory counselling for life.

The actor’s defence team had argued the state’s sex offender law was too severe given Cosby’s age and the fact that he is legally blind.

The comedian was arrested in 2015 and a deadlocked jury resulted in a mistrial in June 2017.

This year’s retrial occurred amid the #MeToo movement that has seen people worldwide come forward to share stories of sexual harassment and assault.

Justice has been served to some extent on an alleged long term serial offender.

Q+A: Justice Minister “what we are doing isn’t working”

Justice Minister Andrew Little was interviewed on Q+A last night.

Andrew Little: after 30 years of tough on crime policy, the reoffending rate has stayed the same, “it’s not making us safe”

“We have to change the public debate on what we do with criminals”.

“If we are doing it right there will be more people leaving prison who have been helped and don’t reoffend.”

“It is not right that we’ve had a 30% increase in our prison population in the last 5 years.”

“No we haven’t got agreement from NZ First to get rid of 3 strikes law.”

Andrew Little: can’t rule out the possibility of systemic racism in the justice system

“Just the humanity of it means we have to do something different”.

“What we are doing right now isn’t working”.

I doubt anyone will argue that New Zealand’s incarceration rate is a problem, and that deterrents and reoffending rates and rehabilitation need to be seriously reviewed.

What is missing from the interview highlights (from @NZQandA) are solutions. That’s the tricky bit.

A review of the judicial system is under way. Hopefully that will come up with some good suggestions.

One problem is that a substantial up front investment will probably be required.

The growing number of prisoners has to be dealt with, and that is costly.

But much more resources are required for prevention and rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners after they are released. If these are done much better it should lead to lowering imprisonment rates, eventually.

Many prisoners are the result of long term problems, often intergenerational. Poor upbringings, lack of education and low skills making well paid employment difficult to get all contribute to resorting to crime.

Drug laws have worked poorly and contribute to a lot of crime.

Violence is a huge problem, it is a deeply entrenched issue in New Zealand society. It will be very challenging confronting and addressing this successfully, but it is an investment in effort and money that benefit us all if it works for the better.

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“Remand or Bust?” – the prison problem

From a comment by Gezza:


A single legal change has caused massive growth in the prison muster.

Growth in New Zealand’s prison population accelerated from around 8500 in 2014 to around 10,500 in 2016

The recent spike can be traced back to changes to bail laws in 2013. Since then, people charged with violent, sex or drug crimes have to prove they pose no danger to the community to get bail. If they can’t, they stay behind bars.

The changes followed public shock over the 2011 killing of 18-year-old Christie Marceau. Her killer Akshay Anand Chand was on bail when he killed her. Chand was found not guilty of her murder by reason of insanity.

When the bail law was changed, Labour said it was “a fairly soft measure” which would require a further 50 prison beds.

In fact, the number of prisoners awaiting trial or sentencing has almost doubled. And our prisons are bursting at the seams. It leaves Justice Minister Andrew Little with a tough decision. Roll back popular changes to the bail laws or build another expensive prison

“There’s no question our prison system is in chaos, and in crisis, at the moment” says Justice Minister Andrew Little, He says the Government has got to fix it up – and quickly. According to Mr Little Cabinet right now is looking at a number of ideas from both the Minister of Corrections, Kelvin Davis and the Minister of Police, Stuart Nash and he’s going to put some up as Minister of Justice.”

https://interactives.stuff.co.nz/2018/05/prisons/remand.html

Difficult to deal with huge increase in prisoner numbers

Politicians have been pandering to populist pleas for getting tough on criminals for decades, but they now face some hard decisions after the prison population has surged.

Our prisons can’t cope with the record number of prisoners, now about 10,500, and there don’t appear to be any easy or quick fixes.

Meanwhile the Government keeps delaying a decision on building a new prison, and has set up yet another working group to kick the can down the road.

Stuff: Make-shift cells in the gym, stretchers in the hallway – a broken prison system

In early May, there were 10,570 prisoners in the system; a number that fluctuates on a daily basis, due to arrests, court decisions and releases.

The population rose above 10,000 for the first time in 2016, and has continued to climb since then. It has risen more than 20 per cent since 2015.

A big part of the problem is a near doubling of the number of remand prisoners over the last five years. From 2009-2013 remand numbers ranged from 1,555-1,925, but there are now over 3,000.

While significant that is only a part of the problem. The prison population has nearly doubled over the past twenty years.

There are no easy answers.

Stuff: Govt stuck between a rock and a hard place on law and order

The Labour-led Government is caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to its big promises on law and order reform.

The Labour-led Government has promised to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent in 15 years, something Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says will take the full 15 years.

But with an almost static crime rate, that means changing the laws that have led to the spike in prisoner numbers.

An overhaul of the justice system is unlikely to be popular political move. The last thing any Government wants is to look soft on crime.

The Opposition has been applying pressure on this. Like:

It’s understood the Government plans to establish another working group, and hold a summit later in the year, ahead of announcing any major legislative changes.

Yet another working group. They will need to decide on whether to proceed with a new prison at Waikeria long before that reports back.

The Government can tinker around the edges when it comes to providing things like transitional housing for people due for parole with no place to go, but that will only slightly lighten the load on prisons.

To deliver on its promise of 30 per cent fewer prisoners, and to be the truly “transitional Government” it says it will be, bail laws, parole laws, and sentencing are all under scrutiny. But this gives its National opposition ammunition when it comes to its “soft of crime” attacks.

The Labour-led Government will either have to find a way to weather those attacks and get its coalition partners onside, or accept an out-of-control muster, and build the mega-prison none of them want.

Numbers will keep rising while the Government fiddles.

 

Waikeria prison decision deferred again

Some work has started on a controversial new prison at Waikeria, but no announcement has yet been made on what is being built.

On 29 March (Stuff) Andrew Little confirms decision on Waikeria within two weeks

Justice Minister Andrew Little has confirmed a decision will be made regarding the future of Waikeria prison within two weeks.

The Government originally promised to make the decision by the end of March but are pushing the deadline to mid-April.

Mr Little has previously said on Newshub Nation he wants to shift justice policy towards rehabilitation in order to lower prison numbers, saying what he saw when visiting Waikeria Prison “horrified him”.

“You have to ask yourself whether this is a place where someone can go from being bad to being good.”

Mr Little said he remained open to the idea of amending bail laws, which Labour previously supported tightening, but says there was no specific plan in place to change them

The Minister said within two or three months there would be a “high profile summit on criminal justice issues to get public debate going”.

Prison populations are projected to soar to over 12,000 by 2022.

Nearly four weeks later still no announcement but some work has started: Otorohanga still hoping for Waikeria prison expansion

Preparatory work has begun at the Waikeria prison site in the King Country, even though the Government has still not decided if it will go ahead with the expansion.

The Department of Corrections said that despite putting the expansion decision on ice, the Government agreed for Corrections to continue some preparatory work at Waikeria while options were considered.

Last Wednesday, Justice Minister Andrew Little said a decision on the “mega prison” would be made public within the next few weeks.

Another few weeks. The prison poses a dilemma for the Government, who have pledged to slash prison numbers but that will take time, and they are currently faced with having to deal with a growing prison population.

There are important legal considerations, as well as finding the money from a budget under pressure to deliver on election pledges.

Waatea News earlier this month: Waikeria decision sparks letter campaign

Campaign group Action Station says 1300 supporters have written letters to Justice Minister Andrew Little and Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis urging them to stop the new billion-dollar prison in Waikeria.

Action Station director Laura O’Connell Rapira says the community are passionate about supporting efforts to build a more compassionate justice system which prioritises prevention, restoration and rehabilitation, and an end to the over-incarceration of Maori people.

She says while the Government is concerned about the state of prisons and wants to end double-bunking, a new prison will inevitably fail in terms of reducing crime.

But in the short term growing numbers have to be housed.

There may be no real choice but to build a prison at Waikeria, but if plans are to substantially reduce the prison population this would be a good opportunity to take a radical new approach to prisons, especially in relation to the disproportionate number of Māori prisoners.

If it doesn’t work, then it can be scrapped as numbers are reduced, and if it does work well then older traditional prison space can be scrapped.

But there is an indication a different approach is not being considered.

RNZ: Govt yet to pursue idea of separate Māori prison

The Corrections Minister has not looked to advance an idea he pushed while in opposition, to establish a separate Māori prison.

And a decision on whether to build a new $1 billion prison at Waikeria in rural Waikato is still pending – a month after Kelvin Davis said a final decision would be made.

As Labour’s opposition spokesperson, Mr Davis argued prisoner numbers could be reduced through rehabilitation programmes in a prison run on a kaupapa Māori based approach.

In February this year, he said he was not ruling anything in or out, when asked whether he’d be progressing any units or prisons based on a Māori-only model.

Last week, in a response to an official information request, Mr Davis said while he had been looking at strategies to reduce Māori offending, he had received no advice about a separate Māori prison.

He said he was committed to reducing the prison population by 30 percent over the next 15 years and “addressing the issue of Māori over representation” in prisons.

“I am working with staff, non-government and Māori organisations and communities to meet this challenge and make a meaningful change for all prisoners, including Māori,” Mr Davis said in a letter to RNZ.

It seems odd that Davis hasn’t been looking at Māori-only model, or a Māori-focussed model, while a decision is being made about the Waikeria prison expansion.

It could be something to do with this:

Mr Davis floated the idea of a separate Māori prison last year, as a way of reducing the prison population, a proposal shut down by the party’s leader at the time, Andrew Little.

Davis may have ditched his proposal, or it may have been ditched for him.

The Government can’t keep pushing out a new prison decision for ‘a few weeks’. They will probably have to commit funds in the budget in three weeks. We may find out then whether a Waikeria will be just more of the same, or something bold and different.