I have written about National policy several times in the last 16 months but mostly relating to the issues that they were fighting around the removal of the Children’s Commissioner.
I have taken time to understand their election policies and comment below, again hoping to get conversation going around my thoughts.
National will restore Three Strikes for serious repeat offenders.
“The justice system should ensure criminals face the consequences of their actions and that victims receive the justice they deserve for the harm they have endured”.
A mirror policy of the ACT party, and as I have said before a failed policy. Three Strikes did not work previously and will not work in the future because the judiciary simply said no under the human rights Act. National need to consider other tools that can not be declined by the courts.
Social Justice Aotearoa supports toughening up on crime, holding people to account and keeping Aotearoa safe but simply can not see the sense in a policy that has failed before.
No taxpayer-funded cultural reports
“Section 27 of the Sentencing Act 2002 allows offenders to request someone to speak to the court to explain how their personal, family, or cultural background may have contributed to their offending”.
Again, a mirror of the ACT party policy, and obviously national are opposed to understanding what has brought any offender to the brink of destruction.
I have previously said that “cultural reports” should be renamed and I stand by that, but I also stand by our position that they are an important part of any offender’s future rehabilitation. National have clearly said that they wish to implement rehabilitation for prisoners on remand, and to that I say how can you fix a problem if you do not know what the problem is. Understanding someone’s journey is vital to their rehabilitation and reintegration, words SJA will never waiver from.
SJA has always said that we are apposed to a discount being given for a cultural report, but still stand by how important these are.
More support for victims
“National firmly believes the interest of victims should be at the core of New Zealand’s justice system”.
A fantastic policy that we absolutely support, understanding that currently victims of crime do not have a voice where they should have one. SJA will always support more investment in victim support, rebuilding peoples lives that should never have been broken.
Proper rehabilitation for remand prisoners
“Prison rehabilitation programmes, when well-designed and delivered, play a crucial role in reducing reoffending rates upon prisoners’ reintegration into society”.
Another fantastic concept and one that no other party has tabled or mentioned. It simply is common sense working with offenders while they are awaiting court hearings or sentencing, where currently we have offenders being released due to time served having not been rehabilitated at all.
Although a fantastic policy/concept this will need careful implementation making sure the right rehabilitation is available in comparison to what we currently are seeing, which is due to a lack of qualified professionals to implement the rehabilitation, so there is a lot of work to be done to make this work effectively.
Young Serious Offender (YSO)
“National will ensure the most serious repeat youth offenders aged 10 to 17 face real consequences by establishing a new Young Serious Offender category. The YSO category will provide greater powers across government agencies to detain offenders, impose stronger sentences, increase monitoring”.
We agree that youth who commit serious crimes need serious intervention, but the intervention needs to be focused on the root cause of the offending. SJA has and always will be clear that no child is born a criminal, there is always a story attached to their offending and understanding that story is where we need to be getting to.
Maybe some light at the end of the tunnel, good thinking but still a lot of discussion and thinking to be had.
Young Offender Military Academies
Young people classified as YSOs who are aged 15 to 17 can be ordered by a Youth Court Judge to attend a Young Offender Military Academy for up to 12 months. The Academies will provide discipline, mentoring and intensive rehabilitation to make a decisive intervention in these young offenders’ lives. The Academies will be run by the Ministry of Justice, in partnership with the Defence Force and other government agencies, with support from community organisations or iwi with a track record of delivering programmes that reduce youth reoffending.
We all know these young people need intervention, support and I even go as far as saying a focus in life so we are supportive of the concept of rehabilitation programs but these need to have an educational focus and also there needs to be a heavy involvement of different suitably qualified professionals making sure results are being achieved.
A good policy and one we will be watching closely if national are our next government.
Backing Police, Tackling Gangs
Some serious youth offending is being driven by gangs. Young people are “stealing to order” on behalf of gangs, and young offenders are committing ram-raids as a form of gang initiation.
Gangs are actively recruiting young people to join their ranks. Gang membership has increased by more than 50 percent in the last five years. National will give Police the tools they need to tackle gangs and stop them contributing to the youth crime wave.
A policy that needs more understanding and clarification. Yes, the gang issue is ballooning and simply out of control, but I am not seeing how they intend to do this.
Empowering community groups
National will use community organisations and other non-government agencies like iwi to break the cycle of offending. Some YSOs will be ordered to undergo intensive supervision by community-based organisations. This will mean they face consequences for their actions and receive tools to turn their lives around, while remaining connected to their families.
Community groups are a good way of integrating more support and help to abate crime, but I question what groups actually have the manpower to do so and the suitably qualified power to do so. A good policy that we would support, given the concept of more community involvement.
Firearms Prohibition Orders – Stop gang members accessing guns.
The gang threat in New Zealand has changed considerably over the last five years. Gang members are increasingly engaging in gun violence, with the police minister recently admitting there had been more than 20 gang-related drive-by shootings in just the last month alone. Police have discovered more than 10,000 firearms across the country in the past three years, with frontline officers encountering around 10 firearms every day.
A good policy that needs implementing but I fail to see how National think they are going to simply get criminally minded people to hand over their illegal firearms.
Overall, I am seeing some good policy here but as I have said there is still a lot of work to be done.
Jackie Foster, CEO, Social Justice Aotearoa