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Marc My Words: Rehabilitation needs Rehabilitation

Marc My Words.
27 Feb 2004
By Marc Alexander MP

'Rehabilitation' needs Rehabilitating!

There can be no question that we are a violent society. What's worse, we are an increasingly violent society. We have barely started this year and already we have had 16 murders. That's sixteen kiwi families who have lost loved ones and whose lives have been shattered by the curse of violent crime.

While the police are doing what they can, (under-resourced and under-manned as they are), and the public clamour for answers, there are still some ideologues who pass themselves off as politicians who have failed to heed commonsense in dealing with criminals. They, in turn, are supported in their delusion that 'everyone is redeemable' by a coterie of bleeding hearts who actually see the offender as victim. As sure as hell violence begets violence, so does tolerance of violence. In fact, tolerance and rationalising away the violence an individual commits is often worse because it has the effect of excusing it.

I believe it is time to confront violent behaviour head on, promoting strong tactics to deal with offenders. While it may seem a controversial view, I am convinced that the liberal approach to 'understand' and 'humanise' these violent offenders will actually produce a counterintuitive result; more violence. Those who disagree have never confronted a central question which is this: why is it that in spite of our ever increasing expenditures in rehabilitation programs and all the so-called progressive liberal sentencing and parole regimes, violent crimes continue to escalate?

I would argue that the modern 'you are not to blame' ideology, which underpins much of the rehabilitation model, promotes understanding and empathy with offenders rather than focus on the victims who suffered because of them. Why else would a defence lawyer personalise and dress the defendant in a nice suit, clean-cut hair if it were not to limit the severity of the sentence by humanising him? But they do not need such consideration; rather, they need unambiguous boundaries and clear judgements about their unacceptable unethical behaviour.

Why for example, have police dropped two assault charges against Coral-Ellen Burrows killer, Steven Williams, just because he was already convicted of murder? The lessening of his culpability cuts right across the dignity with which we should accord the victim. And it is a result of our criminal justice system being more interested in the how we treat the offender rather than in seeking justice.

So who are our criminals? Well, of 22,340 inmates released from prison between 1995 and 1998; more than 37 per cent of inmates were reconvicted of some offence within six months of release, more than 58 per cent were reconvicted within a year, 73 per cent were reconvicted within two years and 86 per cent were reconvicted within five years. Inmates had an average of thirty and a median of twenty prior convictions, with over two-thirds (70 per cent) having more than ten convictions prior to being imprisoned.

These figures show definitively that most offenders are incorrigible. These offenders didn't 'accidentally' commit crimes; they chose to commit them and then kept on committing them. Those who sit and eat their lunch in their ivory towers, and who earn their keep by justifying their psychobabble, have inadvertently aided and abetted these violent offenders by empathising with them when they should be holding them to full account.

If we really do want to work towards having a safe society, then the government had better start listening and put away their damned rehabilitation values. The liberal sociologists and psychologists better drop their alfalfa sprout ideologies and start thinking about all the future victims their beliefs will inadvertently create.


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