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Fear mongering no cure for youth offending

31th January 2008

Fear mongering no cure for youth offending

In their major speeches this week, both John Key and Helen Clark have kicked off this year's election cycle by whipping up fear and resentment against young people, Green Party Youth Affairs Spokesperson Metiria Turei says.

"Every election year has its targets. In the past, we've seen beneficiary bashing, immigrant bashing and Maori bashing - and now youth have been added to the list of scapegoats," Mrs Turei says.

"John Key had advocated boot camps, ankle security bracelets and a lower age for Youth Court prosecution as part of the National Party's set of generally punitive reactions to the problems posed by a relatively small number of youth offenders.

"Not to be outdone, Labour then claimed that much of what Mr Key was advocating was already part of its own programme - and the next day, Helen Clark lifted the school leaving age to 18.

"Let us be clear. Mandatory, punitive measures do not work with the tiny minority who do most of the violent youth offending. The Burnham military boot camp cited by Mr Key as a model is a voluntary programme, and the military have made it very clear they have no interest in running a correctional facility.

"The evidence from here and overseas is that boot camps simply don't work. They make things worse. The recidivism rate for the boot camps run in the 1990s under Corrective Training had a recidivism rate of 94.5 per cent after four years, far higher than the 80 percent recidivism rate for first time offenders sent to prison. On the evidence, Mr. Key's ideas would actually increase the rate of re-offending.

"Both National and Labour are treating symptoms, not causes. In her speech, Helen Clark correctly called today's youth offenders the children of Ruth Richardson's Mother of all Budgets in 1991, which cut benefits. She then proceeded in her speech to ignore the problem she had just identified," Mrs Turei says.

"The Greens believe the real problem behind youth offending is poverty. It is the lack of affordable state housing that forces parents to shift their kids around from school to school. It is low wages that keeps both parents at work, and creates latchkey kids."


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