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Reverse Christmas Jail Release Scheme

Reverse Christmas Jail Release Scheme

Saturday 14 Dec 2002 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Crime & Justice -- Zero Tolerance for Crime

Instead of keeping a scheme that deliberately lets hundreds of prisoners out of jail three weeks before Christmas, the Government should change the law so that most can't get out until three weeks after festivities are over, ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

Mr Franks was considering Government claims to be reviewing the new Parole Act's Get out of Jail Free for Christmas policy.

"A reversal would put the interests of innocent holidaying New Zealanders ahead of the party appointments of burglars, and the kind of bullies who spoil New Year celebrations around the country. Every family going away on holiday must wonder whether it will be their turn to come home to find they have become victims of the annual holiday burglary spree.

"The Government has admitted the release of a drunk driver after one hour of his jail sentence was part of a deliberate policy choice, not something forced on them by an unexpected "loophole". So now it is time to make a more sensible choice. Cancel the early release policy for all burglars, pub bullies and any other type of criminal likely to use their Christmas freedom to make life a misery for others.

"The Government should also explore a better way to meet the alleged 'needs' of the offenders at the same time. Corrections officials say that release three weeks early is vital to allow offenders to sort out all the necessary meetings with the agencies that hand out money before they close down for Christmas. It is never explained why those agencies can't go to the prison to set up the support in the weeks before the offender is let out.

"A focus on the needs of the community instead of the privileges of the criminals would have a completely different solution. The alleged problem of 'unsupported' prisoners looking for help over Christmas could be cured by keeping them safe and sober in prison, and save everyone else trouble at the same time. If a criminal has the bad luck to be due for release in the period when all the 'essential' support agencies are not around to organise his 'reintegration' then keep him for as much extra time as they have been prepared to cut off sentences. That would suggest a closed period for releases until say 15 January.

"It could save a bundle in burglary losses, as well as ensure prisoners are in better care, when it is clear that parole supervision is under extreme pressure, and has broken down seriously in recent cases," Mr Franks said.

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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