Marc My Words - 26 Nov: A Tale to Four Cities
MARC ALEXANDER MP - UNITED FUTUREMARC ALEXANDER MP -
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MARC MY WORDS - 26 November 2004
A Tale to Four Cities
This week I have been to four cities (Te Puke, Rotorua, Whakatane and Gisborne) to talk to Rotary and Grey Power groups about our criminal justice system. I wanted to share the results of my own research about how our system came about; why it's not working, and why we need to take time out for a major rethink.
I tell the people gathered about the amount of our resources that go to maintain around 6,700 prison inmates and 20,000 others in community based sentences (about $600 million); that 86% of inmates are re-convicted within five years; that 70% of those who go to prison have more than ten convictions; and that no intellectual gymnastics will ever explain why against all logic, some people persist in their faith in the rehabilitation of offenders. As I point out, imagine if 86% of your business decisions ended in a loss.it wouldn't be hard to concede that your business would soon be packed up as nothing but a memory.
Yet still the behavioural apologists persist with their nonsense. Unfortunately there are eager politicians - the majority at present - who agree and act with deaf ears to the rising tide of victimizations (1.7 million according to national victimization surveys), but worse than that, rehabilitation is an experiment perpetrated by the 'generosity' of those who arrogantly parade a misguided doctrine of forgiveness by society at the expense of the law abiding - who as a result increasingly fall victim to crimes that are preventable!
A few years ago researcher Robert Martinson reviewed 230 rehabilitation programmes worldwide and came to the astonishing conclusion that commonsense could well have provided, that not one of them achieved consistent positive outcomes. It does not mean that we should jettison rehabilitation as a strategy.we just need to hold that objective with a degree of perspective and in balance with two other needs; to adequately resource interventions with those families most at risk of producing the next crop of offenders; and the rights of victims to be satisfied that society has acted to punish offenders in a way that is commensurate with the seriousness of the crime.
I tell the groups about some of the criminals we have in our 'system'; Dennis Hines who amassed 80 convictions including slashing a man's throat; Gresham Marsh who racked up 60 convictions before killing an elderly couple with his partner in crime, Leith Ray; Jules Mikus who not only raped and murdered Teresa Cormack but has added attempted rape, theft, fraud, and bigamy to his criminal resume; and Joseph Thompson who pleaded guilty to a staggering 129 charges, including 46 of rape!
And for those that cling to the oft-used belief that age will knock out the criminal instinct, I offer the example of Douglas Corkill who was sentenced on 12 October this year for 34 indecent assault charges involving 11 young boys. He is 76 years old!! I also tell of one individual still in the prime of his criminal offending, one Brian Bolt, who has amassed a jaw dropping 636 criminal offences. As if to underscore my main point.his last offence was committed while on parole!
What really amazes me is that I'm up to my sixtieth speaking engagement on this issue and in each gathering there has emerged a clear consensus on what we can and should do. Most of the questions are similar and amount to one thing: why are politicians doing nothing to help ensure the safety and security of the law abiding? Why are we bending over backwards to consider the interests of offenders over those they offend against? How can the 92% who had no difficulty understanding my friend Norm Withers' Referendum question be so resolutely ignored by policymakers? And finally, how can we even contemplate the maintenance of injustices like 'concurrent' sentencing. (There is a fitting analogy - since a sentence is effectively the 'price' of a crime, can my dollar be used to purchase more than one item at a time?). We have a lengthy justice process, from apprehension for the crime, to hearing procedures, to sentencing, to appeals, to parole. The process allows victims little chance to heal their lives. (Currently there are 35,000 charges that have yet to see the light of a courtroom).
In spite of the best efforts of Police, Correctional employees, Courts and Probation staff, our criminal justice system is an abject disgrace, mainly due to the absence of political leadership. Instead we have a succession of ideological prejudices dressed up to look like legislation in the public interest. What we end up with is a raft of indigestible laws shunted through Parliament as though it is an alimentary canal, and then deposited for the supposed good of the few against the commonsense of the many. There are times I truly feel ashamed of what Parliament gets up to when the commonsense calls of the public go unheeded. The four cities I visited this week have given me a chance to talk again with people from the wider public - many of whom show greater sense and sensibilities than some of the clowns performing under the big top in Wellington.
I must confess that I often throw my hands up in despair at the deceptive sophistry and nonsensical notions brimming in the Beehive; dreamt up in part by well-meaning but 'feet in the air' ideologues who continually confound logic - (particularly as it concerns the criminal justice system) - and who egg each other on to hide behind an increasingly elaborate veneer of plausibility.
As Garth McVicar, a friend and a leading light in the fight for justice in NZ so eloquently states, "The worst crime by far in this country has been committed by the Ministry of Justice. To those hiding behind the privilege of government, 'accountability' and 'responsibility' are foreign words."